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With Speeches And Bright Dresses, Quinceañeras Protest Texas Sanctuary City Ban

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Jennifer Ramirez and 14 other young women wearing quinceañera dresses protest the new sanctuary cities ban on the south steps of the Texas state Capitol on Wednesday."

The colorful scene melded two time-honored Texas traditions: political protest and the quinceañera.

With skirts flouncing, 15 young women ascended the steps of the Texas state Capitol on Wednesday morning to a traditional Mexican birthday song played in a mariachi style.

But there was no birthday to celebrate. Instead, the girls had gathered to protest the new sanctuary cities ban that goes into effect Sept. 1.

"We are here to take a stand against Senate Bill 4, the most discriminatory and hateful law in recent history," declared Magdalena Juarez, 17, wearing a bright red gown. "When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on May 7, he disrespected my community. He put a lot of Texas in danger. SB 4 is not only an attack on immigrant communities; it threatens the lives of all people of color."

Critics have dubbed SB 4 a show-me-your-papers law. It allows local law enforcement officers to request proof of legal residency during a routine detention, like a traffic stop. Under the law, sheriffs and police chiefs could be jailed if they forbid their officers from complying with federal immigration enforcement activities.

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
Leslie Abraham leads a group of young women through the House gallery to talk with lawmakers.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
The young women visited lawmakers who voted for and against Senate Bill 4.

Jolt Texas, a political action group that aims to organize Latinos in the state, co-organized the protest.

"Texas has become ground zero for the fight for the rights of immigrants and Latinos," Jolt founder Cristina Tzintzun told NPR.

She said the quinceañera protest is part of a larger movement.

"This last election we saw Mexicans and Latinos demonized and criminalized and really scapegoated," Tzintzun said. "And so we want legislators to know and Trump to know that we won't sit idly by while legislation of hate is passed. That our communities are going to organize and mobilize."

"In Latino culture, quinceañeras are an important tradition to bring families together, to unite communities, to unite culture," said Juarez, the young speaker. "We will not meet this law on its hateful level. ... We will resist through celebrating our families and our culture."

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
From left, Leslie Abraham, Alexandra Lopez, Julia Pierce and Isabela Pierce stop for a quick photo while visiting legislators at the Capitol.

But it wouldn't be a quinceañera without a choreographed dance.

Arms pumping and looking fierce, the girls danced to a mashup of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" and "Somos Mas Americanos" by Los Tigres del Norte.

And with their symbolic rite of passage complete, the girls filed into the Capitol to talk to legislators.

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
Ramirez prepares to perform at the Capitol.

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