Representative Sarah Davis appeals to West University voters by claiming she is an independent moderate. Yet when the chips are down, Davis is a conservative who supported family separation by cosponsoring the Show Me Your Papers Bill, SB4, the worst piece of immigration legislation passed at the state level in years.
Show Me Your Papers is a textbook example of a national wave of Trumpian racism pushed by the Republican Party of Donald Trump. It allows for police to question the immigration status of anyone who has been detained or arrested, including victims and witnesses. The law forces local law enforcement to work with ICE. It even calls for using taxpayer dollars to fund legal defenses against anyone who challenges it.
Show Me Your Papers has led to violations of civil rights and deportations that have ripped apart families. An Austin Chronicle piece from 2017 outlined the gut-wrenching details of one specific, textbook case of Show Me Your Papers fallout, Jordy Balderas, whose family moved back to Mexico for a short while but eventually fled to escape the drug cartel violence. After the sweep of ICE arrests earlier this year, his family stopped shopping at local stores, visiting other family member, and even forwent needed medical visits for their physically ill 3-year-old. He specifically cited fear of family separation in the article as a reason for curtailing their mobility.
Balderas is far from alone. Here in Harris County- which includes Davis’ district- detainers to ICE have gone up 60%. Show Me Your Papers has also destroyed the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities in Texas, and directly strains the relationship it has with any black and brown communities. Because the law allows for the officer to inquire about immigration status from anyone based on nothing more than the fact that they were involved in the incident one way or another, it enables likelihood of racist escalation; officers rarely ask about the status of white people. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has reported that Latinos in his city have reported fewer violent crimes, particularly domestic violence, as a time when other communities have reported higher rates of incidents. In other words: Show Me Your Papers has separated and endangered as many families as any piece of immigration legislation.
I haven’t seen a poll of West University’s voters, so I can’t say for certain that they oppose family separation, but it would seem to be an outlier if they support it. It’s not unusual to see split ticket yard signs in West U for Davis and say, Lizzie Fletcher, or Beto O’Rourke. Appealing to the middle is how politicians win the area.
Moderates don’t support family separation as policy. A majority of Texans polled by University of Texas/Texas Tribune in June opposed family separation at the border, with independents breaking against the policy by large margins. The numbers in Texas mirrored most national polls. In a qualitative response that was part of a more recent Arizona poll, one moderate Republican who will be voting for Democrats this time around said “I’m embarrassed disgusted, infuriated” by the president, she said. “I’m very disappointed of his treatment of undocumented individuals. As a parent, the family separation (issue) was very impactful on me and devastating to me.”
So why has Davis seemingly escaped heated SB4 criticism? One reason is that Show Me Your Papers has not registered the same awareness with the general public as the DHS family separation policy has. Another is more tragic: District 134 voters are not directly affected by the issue. Many of these voters were heartbroken and outraged when families were separated at the border, but are they heartbroken and outraged enough that Davis’ reelection is in clear jeopardy?
November is a chance to take a stand. If voters want to show they are against family separation, voting for Allison Sawyer is one way they can say to Davis, “We appreciate your hard work and position on some issues, but separating families is a dealbreaker for us. We’re trading in our yard signs and changing our votes.”