Hundreds of people gathered at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Thursday to protest a bill that would ban cities and public universities in the state from designating themselves as "sanctuaries" for undocumented immigrants.

The Texas Senate's State Affairs Committee is meeting to discuss SB 4, which would bar sanctuary cities and sanctuary campuses from existing.


Texas Governor Greg Abbott has expressed his enthusiastic support for such an effort. If passed, SB 4 would deny state grant funds to local law enforcement agencies that choose not to cooperate with federal immigration officials, the Texas Tribune reported.

In response, nearly 500 people made their way to the state capitol in Austin to testify against and to protest the bill. Initially, many were not permitted into the actual senate chamber.

When people were allowed inside, some clapped and chanted as the legislators discussed the bill. Officials repeatedly warned the protestors that they could be removed. Some were escorted out by officers.

In a rally on the Capitol grounds, undocumented students and other opponents of the bill shared their experiences with those waiting to enter the chamber, before getting in line themselves.

In a video posted on Twitter, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called sanctuary cities "policies that make you unsafe." Research, however, suggests that sanctuary cities are actually safer–not just for undocumented immigrants, but for everyone. Other studies suggest immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S.