Texas state rep calls ICE on ‘sanctuary city’ protesters

A large protest against Texas' new sanctuary city law on Monday disrupted the last day of the state Legislature's regular session.

Texas state Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R) and several Democrats reportedly exchanged angry words on the state House floor, according the the Texas Tribune.

Several members said that Rinaldi told a group of Hispanic lawmakers that he had called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on the protesters.

“He came up to us and said, ‘I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported,'” state Rep. Cesar Blanco (D) told the Texas Tribune. 

Rinaldi said he called ICE because he didn't know how to handle the large protest.

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"A lot of people had signs that said, 'We are illegal and here to stay,'" he told the paper. "And we called law enforcement trying to incentivize them to leave the House. They were disrupting. They were breaking the law."

He said he was "pushed, jostled and someone threatened to kill me. It was basically just bullying."

Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. (D) said Rinaldi "gave the perfect example of why there's a problem with SB 4," which Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed into law. The law says cities and counties must cooperate with federal immigration authorities that request law enforcement agencies detain people suspected of being undocumented.  

"Matt Rinaldi looked into the gallery and saw Hispanic people and automatically assumed they were undocumented. He racial profiled every single person that was in the gallery today. He created the scenario that so many of us fear," Romero added.

Romero told The Austin American-Statesman that Rinaldi “felt like he needed to call ICE” despite Texas Department of Public Safety officers removing protesters from House galleries.

Rinaldi countered that Democrats had incited a riot by encouraging demonstrators, adding that they threatened his life on the House floor.

"Today Representative [Alfonso] 'Poncho' Nevarez threatened me 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,'" he wrote on Facebook. "Several Democrats encouraged the protesters 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," Rinaldi added.

"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.'"

Rinaldi vowed to defend himself against Nevarez.

"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."

The Statesman reported that protesters chanting “Here to stay!” briefly shut down Texas’ House earlier Monday.

House rules reportedly forbid spectators from cheering or jeering, so Department of Public Safety officers eventually escorted the demonstrators out.

The Statesman reported that the Texas Senate locked its gallery doors around 11 a.m. Monday to avoid a similar situation.