State officials will not stop Texas from bending toward justice
By Mimi Marziani
TCRP is honored to be a part of the rising movement for equality, justice, and human dignity that is transforming Texas.
In Washington, officials are hard at work, seeking to roll-back civil rights gains that — thanks to the blood, sweat, tears and unwavering optimism of those who came before us — led us to a more just, fair and inclusive America.
These attacks have been met by fierce resistance across the country by governors, attorneys general, and the banding together of regular people, united by a belief in progress and a refusal to go back to the way things were.
But Texas is a different story. Instead of pushing back against attempts to rewind the clock, our officials are falling over themselves to take advantage of this moment for self-serving ends. Their strategy is dark and mean-spirited — namely, to advance an agenda of hate and fear to keep themselves in power.
For over 26 years, working hand-in-hand with grassroots partners and ordinary people across the state, the Texas Civil Rights Project has challenged laws and policies that attempt to keep down Texas communities. In and out of court, our bold and creative litigation and advocacy has advanced civil rights and led to systemic reforms. In short, we hold Texas accountable to its people.
That’s why, as lawmakers and state officials become increasingly hostile to civil rights and afraid of losing their own positions, we have been victim to our own success. Recently, our efforts to create lasting change sparked a backlash, leading to the abrupt loss of roughly $900,000 as of September 1st. TCRP had been receiving this funding since 1991.
While this is a big loss for us, it is also a loss for the rising movement for justice and equality in our state. We pride ourselves on working closely with Texans, for Texans. As a result, we work closely with community organizations all around Texas and are honored to represent many of them in the courtroom.
For instance, this summer we sued to stop SB4, the “show me your papers” law. SB4 has given rise to fears by immigrant communities and advocacy organizations of rampant racial profiling and eroded trust with police, making communities less safe. As our clients, the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund and MOVE San Antonio, argued in court, SB4 will make their constituents “less likely to appear anywhere where local law enforcement is present” due to fear.
While many parts of SB4 are currently enjoined and will head to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, serious damage was already done. Immigrants — and their families and neighbors — are still living in fear of discrimination, undermining the pursuit of justice and making the job of organizing those communities even harder than it already was. Which, of course, is by design.
Here’s another example: We’re leading the fight to take back the vote. All eligible voters should have an equal and meaningful ability to participate in our democracy. But, in addition to exclusionary photo ID rules and discriminatory district lines, Texas makes it a crime for you to register your neighbor to vote, imposing a complicated labyrinth of registration rules that are reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.
Last year, we sued the Department of Motor Vehicles for failing to comply with the federal “motor voter” law. Even though we won all of our preliminary motions in court — and hope to win the overall case soon — we’ve lost much that we cannot regain. Nobody knows how many voters have missed their opportunity to vote simply because state officials refuse to comply with the most basic principles enshrined in our federal voting rights laws.
As these examples show, we cannot back down now. Too much is at stake.
The fact of the matter is that our state is changing. There is a powerful rising movement for equality, justice, and human dignity that is transforming Texas. And people in power are afraid — meaning they will do everything they can to throw up barriers for organizations and people working to advance civil rights in our state.
TCRP is not the only organization in our state to fall victim to these hostile conditions and it won’t be the last. Just ask any advocate, organization, or group working to empower vulnerable communities in Texas. We are under attack, together.
The road to change Texas is a long and difficult journey. It will require a strong and resilient movement to represent the needs of the most vulnerable Texans. Although our current climate is hostile, as seen by TCRP’s own abrupt loss of funding, I know that TCRP will continue to thrive, and the overall movement will continue to grow. To do that, we need all Texans who care about justice and equality to go all in and support the resilient organizations at the forefront of leading change in our state.
Which is why, today, we are asking you to join the Fight for Rights Campaign, our new, broad effort to replace the lost funding and sustain our work for years to come.
Will you contribute so that we can continue the fight to protect and expand civil rights?
We refuse to back down from this latest challenge. With your crucial support and partnership, we will continue to fight the roll-back on civil rights we are seeing in Texas and across the country. We deeply appreciate your commitment to building a more just future. We look forward to sharing our future victories with you.
Mimi Marziani is the Executive Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project