AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Muslim organizers of a rally at the Texas Capitol said they were taking extra security precautions Tuesday, including hiring private security guards, as hundreds arrived on buses amid growing discord over President Donald Trump's immigration ban.
Although the "Texas Muslim Capitol Day" is a biennial event that was scheduled months before Trump won the presidency, the tenor and size of the rally was likely to drastically differ from previous years after Trump on Friday banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations.
It also threatened to overshadow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivering his second State of the State address that was likely to include the Republican enthusiastically embracing Trump's crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities." His speech also is being closely watched to see how or even whether Abbott weighs in on Trump's broader immigration ban.
Mustaafa Carroll, executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said this was the first year they had provided armed security on buses heading to Austin for the rally. He said it was mainly to help his people feel at ease amid heightened tensions nationwide and a small band of anti-Muslim protesters who greeted them in 2015.
Two years ago, one Republican legislator instructed her staff to ask Muslims visiting her office to take a loyalty pledge to the U.S.
"They're beefing up security, and they're very aware of what's going on and the climate," Carroll said.
Trump's tumultuous early going will loom over a new agenda that Abbott is laying out while his state faces being dramatically impacted by a border wall, immigration crackdowns and trade tensions with neighboring Mexico. Abbott has stopped short of endorsing a wall along the entire length of the Texas-Mexico border, and was silent after a Trump spokesman last week raised the prospect of paying for the wall with a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico, the state's largest trading partner.
But Abbott is already threatening to cut off some state funding to Texas jails that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration agents, echoing Trump's order to financially punish cities with sanctuary policies. Abbott has said he wants to go even further and sign new laws that would "criminalize" sanctuary policies and give the state authority to oust locally elected officials.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who runs the Austin jails in Texas' most liberal city, plans to stop honoring all federal immigration detainers on Wednesday and only comply with holds for murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking.