On the floor of the Texas legislature, an enraged Democrat attacked a fellow lawmaker, a Republican, who had reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that there were illegal immigrants making a ruckus in the building. Protesters held up signs reading, “I am an illegal and here to stay,” while issuing chants from the gallery of the Texas Capitol in Spanish, one of which translated is “A united people will never be defeated!”
The protesters, many of whom were women, wore identical red t-shirts. Some unfurled banners reading “See you in court!” and “See you at the polls!” They are opposed to legislation -- Senate Bill 4 -- signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that would penalize local jurisdictions for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities,
A fistfight nearly broke out on the final day of the legislative session after Texas state Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R) called in ICE to report that illegal immigrants were at the rally. Colleagues of the two men intervened and prevented an affray.
Rinaldi, who represents Irving, subsequently issued a statement to confirmed that he reported the protesters to federal immigration authorities, adding that he is under police protection after being “physically assaulted” and threatened by other legislators. He claimed that Rep. Poncho Nevárez, (D) of Eagle Pass said he would “get me on the way to my car,” which prompted Rinaldi to respond that he “would shoot him in self defense.” Rinaldi also said that Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., (D) of Fort Worth assaulted him on the floor of the chamber. Rinaldi also claimed that Democrats pushed and shoved him on the floor, which occurred as officers were removing protesters from the galleries.
Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D) of San Antonio claimed that he had earlier heard Rinaldi issue a threat at Nevárez that he would “put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads.”
According to the Austin Statesman, Romero said of the enraged protesters, “This is an exercise of your first amendment rights, your freedom of speech.” Romero said of Rinaldi that Romero “feels the way to deal with that, instead of letting troopers do what they did, which is exactly what they’re supposed to do, he felt like he needed to call ICE.” Romero said, referring to officers of the Texas Department of Public Safety who removed the protesters from the galleries. “He fully lost my respect,” Romero said of Rinaldi. On video, Democrats in the chamber can be seen cheering on the protesters in the gallery.
“F**k them, I called ICE,” Rinaldi allegedly said, according to Romero. According to The Observer, Romero said, “He saw a bunch of people who look Latino, and he assumed they’re undocumented.” Romero said, “So how can he say SB 4 won’t lead to racial profiling?”
The protesters were there to oppose the Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 4, which sanctions so-called sanctuary cities that decline to assist federal immigration enforcement. Protesters chanted in English and Spanish against Senate Bill 4 and taunted Republican legislators. Some shouted “Here to stay!”
In a statement on Facebook, Rinaldi wrote:
Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said “I am illegal and here to stay.” Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car.” He later approached me and reiterated that “I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.” I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, “get me,” I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me. See Rinaldi's post here.