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Immigrants' Rights Caravan Tours Texas Border

Robert Heyman, with the Border Network for Human rights presents at Together Juntos caravan stop in Marfa (Photo by Carlos Morales / KRTS)

A group of immigrants' rights advocates are traveling along the Texas-Mexico border this week.  Organizers say their goal is to teach immigrants about their constitutional rights.

The Together Juntos Caravan comes at a time when most of SB4, the state’s law banning so-called ‘sanctuary cities' has been allowed to go into effect.

In part, Texas’ immigration enforcement law allows local law enforcement officials to ask people detained about their immigration status.

Robert Heyman says this can happen during things like traffic stops. He’s with the Border Network for Human Rights, one of the groups organizing the traveling caravan. Heyman says the law could lead to racial profiling.

"We want people to know that they have rights, that they have a right not to be questioned on the basis of their skin color, or on the basis of the language they speak or an accent they may have," Heyman said during the caravan's stop in Marfa. "Really, to make sure we minimize the effect a law like SB4 has in separating families and disrupting communities in Texas.”

Heyman says the caravan's efforts to teach about constitutional rights is "all the more urgent because of what the 5th Circuit did," referring to the federal appeals court decision that allowed most of the law to go into effect in March.

By the end of its nearly 2 week tour, the caravan will have stopped at about 20 different cities along and near the Texas-Mexico border. Apart from educating these communities about constitutional rights, organizers say they will also teach people how to document any law enforcement abuses that might occur following the implementation of SB4.

Gabriella Castañeda, with the Border Network for Human Rights, says this serves a legal purpose and will help them build a case against the law.

Representative César Blanco, whose district includes parts of El Paso, says the law will have negative effects in communities throughout Texas.“When the immigrant fears rather than trusts their local law enforcement, they report crimes less often."

The part of the SB4  that remains on hold is a provision that would punish local officials for enacting policies that either prohibit or limit the enforcement of immigration laws.

The Together Juntos Caravan ends in Houston on April 12th.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.