In his annual State of the City Address on Saturday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler appeared to denounce the White House’s ban on Syrian refugees and immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries.
“I just want the immigrant and refugee community in this city to know that we are a welcoming and supportive community and that they are an important part of our community and in this community they should feel welcome and safe,” he said.
In a speech that lasted just shy of 90 minutes, the mayor touched on the city's land development code, affordability and the health of the creative arts. Only in the final minutes did he comment on national immigration news, in what he called an “off-script” moment.
“In this community last year, we brought in just under 600 refugees,” said Adler, a number that jived with one from Caritas of Austin, which resettles roughly 500 refugees in Austin every year. “Most of them from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This year, it was anticipated that we would be bringing in just over 600 refugees.”
Adler also reiterated his support for Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez. Since Hernandez announced a new policy last week limiting the county’s cooperation with the federal immigration agency, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has threatened to cut off state funds to the county.
“Our Sheriff turns over everyone to the federal government that the law requires her to turn over,” said Adler. “What our Sheriff does not do is participate in a voluntary program that would have her detain and turn over others without warrants… [T]he question we face as a community is simple, I think: At what price do we sell our safety?”
As protests rage on at major airports across the country, there have yet been no reports of refugees, immigrants or citizens detained at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport per the president's executive order. In an unusually sensational tone, the Mayor proclaimed near the close of his speech: “So just as we can see our skyline rise over what used to be a sleepy college town, and still recognize the spirit and soul of Austin everywhere we look, the world can completely lose its mind and we’re still going to be Austin, Texas.”