These Women Are Leading the Resistance in Texas

Women TX

The Lone Star state has a long tradition of strong, progressive women, from the late Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, who paved the way for a new generation of female political candidates, to former state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster of an anti­-abortion bill catapulted her to national attention. Lately, a new crew of activists, organizers, and officeholders has emerged to battle the Trump agenda and restore the state to its once-blue glory. Here are some rising stars.

Sally Hernandez

The Travis County sheriff has clashed with the Trump administration and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, declaring that her department would not co­­operate with federal requests to detain people based on their immigration status. Abbott retaliated by yanking $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to the county, and the Legislature later passed SB 4, the state’s sanctuary cities ban. Facing a personal mis­demeanor charge and a fine to the county of up to $25,500 per violation, Hernandez says she will comply with the law. She and five of Texas’ six largest cities sued the state to prevent the new law from being enforced. On August 30, a federal judge ruled in favor of Hernandez and the other plaintiffs, temporarily blocking the bill two days before its planned implementation.

Victoria Neave

After un-seating an incumbent Republican state representative last fall, the Dallas Democrat has emerged as one of SB 4’s most vocal opponents. She staged a four-day hunger strike in opposition to the bill. One of the law’s authors joked about postponing the vote to “see how hungry she gets.” Possibly damaging to her political aspirations: In June, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Kim Ogg

The newly elected district attorney of Harris County—home to Houston—has tackled criminal justice reform in one of America’s most populous jurisdictions. One of her first actions: allowing people caught with small amounts of marijuana to take a drug education class and avoid arrest. She has also been a vocal critic of the county’s bail system, arguing it keeps poor people stuck in jail even if they pose no threat. Ogg recently supported a successful lawsuit against the system, which a federal judge ruled unconstitutional.

Jess Herbst

In January, the mayor of New Hope (pop. 633) came out to her constituents as transgender, making her the state’s first openly transgender mayor. Since then, she has been one of the most high-profile opponents of a Republican-led effort to pass a bathroom bill, similar to the one signed (and partially repealed) in North Carolina. “One day, everybody will be treated with respect and equality, and history will tell that story,” Herbst told a committee considering the legislation in April.

Cristina Tzintzun

Terrified about what would happen to her own family after the election (her husband is a DREAMer from Mexico), the 35-year-old veteran organizer founded Jolt, a group aimed at mobilizing Latino voters that is at the forefront of the SB 4 resistance. Tzintzun isn’t new to organizing. Her previous effort, the still-active Workers Defense Project, was described by the New York Times as “one of the nation’s most creative organizations for immigrant workers.”

Patsy Woods Martin

The Austin-­based philanthropist runs Annie’s List, a political action committee, modeled on Emily’s List, that works to elect pro-choice, progressive women in Texas. Since its 2003 founding, the group has been a notable force in the state, helping to elect Democrats, including Neave and Ogg.

Laura Moser

In a postelection malaise, the Houston native wanted a way to turn the resistance movement into a routine. “Almost like hygiene,” she explained. “You have to floss your teeth; you have to fight Donald Trump.” The result was Daily Action—which blasts a daily alert to its 300,000 subscribers directing them to make one call to resist the Republican agenda. In May, Moser jumped into the crowded congressional race to challenge Rep. John Culberson in the suddenly swingy 7th District.

Michelle Tremillo

This fourth-­generation Tejana (and ACORN alum) co-founded the Texas Organizing Project, which aims to mobilize minority voters in the state’s megacit­ies by addressing local issues, from bail reform to sidewalks. The group played a key role in last year’s elections in Harris County, where Democrats won most offices.

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Mother Jones.

VIDEO: Texas Organizing Project and Workers Defense Action Fund Launch Digital Campaign in Rinaldi’s District

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Today, Texas Organizing Project and Workers Defense Action Fund released a new digital ad targeting voters in state Rep. Matt Rinaldi’s district. Rinaldi gained national attention when he called Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) on advocates who were protesting the passage of SB 4 on the final day of the 85th Texas Legislative Session.

Rinaldi represents the most diverse zip code in America, 75038, and narrowly won in 2016 by just 1,048 votes. In 2018, we can send a message that we don’t want hate in our state by mobilizing 5,000 more progressive voters to the polls.

“When Rinaldi called immigration agents a week ago in response to people fighting for their right to live free of harassment and racial profiling, he thought he was picking on people without a way to fight back. He was wrong,” said Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project. “He’s about to learn that being brown and speaking Spanish doesn’t mean undocumented, doesn’t mean voiceless or powerless. We look forward to ushering him out of our state legislature.”

“One week ago, Racial Profiling Rinaldi started a fight with Texas families – now Texas families are going to finish it at the ballot box,” said Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Action Fund. “Voters from across the state are ready to hold SB 4 supporters accountable.”

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Brown communities in Texas’ three largest counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

Workers Defense Action Fund (WDAF) seeks to build a long-lasting infrastructure that will engage working Texans in the electoral and legislative processes that affect their lives. WDAF educates and informs voters about their rights, advocates for stronger protections for workers and engages historically under-represented voters in campaigns to elect representatives that care about working families’ needs.

TOP Condemns Raids and Deportation of Central American Refugees

Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) are shown during an operation targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States in this image released May 11, 2016.   Courtesy ICE/Handout via REUTERS

In response to reports that the Obama Administration is planning raids and deportation of Central American refugees, Michelle Tremillo, managing director of the Texas Organizing Project, made the following statement:

“It is disheartening to hear that the Obama Administration plans to continue these senseless and destructive raids and deportations of vulnerable people.

“There is no justification for taking this course of action. Simply none.

“The mothers and children being targeted by the Obama Administration came to the U.S. fleeing rampant crime and crippling poverty. To further traumatize them with raids and send them back to one of the most dangerous corners of the world is unconscionable and heartless. These mothers and children should be welcomed as refugees.

“We urge the Obama Administration to drop the raids and stop the deportations of Central American refugees immediately.

“This is not who we are as a country. And it shouldn’t be.”