Gina Ortiz Jones stands at Travis Park and condemns the notion of a National Emergency declared by President Trump.
Gina Ortiz Jones, former Democratic candidate for Texas' 23rd Congressional District, speaks at a protest against President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration at Travis Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As part of a nationwide movement of protests, around 100 people gathered at Travis Park on Monday to voice opposition to President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency in order to access funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Holding handmade signs, protesters cheered on speakers including U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) and Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in the November midterms.

Castro on Friday drafted a joint resolution to terminate Trump’s declaration of national emergency; by that afternoon, the bill had more than 60 co-sponsors, Texas Monthly reported. The joint resolution to terminate the president’s declaration now has 78 co-sponsors, Castro said.

Among them is U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), who provided a statement that was read aloud on Monday, Presidents Day. The only crisis at the southern border was created by Trump, Doggett’s statement said, when his administration separated children from parents and obstructed legal asylum seekers.

“I remain a strong and consistent ‘No’ to Trump’s wasteful wall of ignorance,” his statement read. “Together we must continue to resist his authoritarian power grab. Next week, I am hopeful that the House will reject his phony declaration by adopting a resolution of which I am a sponsor.”

Castro said at Monday’s protest that Americans need to stand together to protect rule of law and separation of powers. Most Texans are against the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he said.

“I say most because there are some Texans and Americans who do,” he said. “We’re respectful of people who have different opinions and perspectives on that. But we should all be able to agree that a president should not be able to declare a national emergency for the purpose of coming through on a political promise and building this border wall.

“I believe in 2020 we’ll see even greater change, and we’ll elect a new president of the United States,” said Castro, whose brother Julián announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in mid-January.

United States Representative Joaquin Castro (D20) speaks against the President during the protest.
U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) decries Trump’s emergency declaration during the protest. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) could not attend the protest, so his legislative director, Julia Grizzard, read a statement on his behalf. Declaring a national emergency is merely a political stunt, Bernal wrote in his statement.

“We do not need a wall, and there is no crisis at our border with Mexico,” Bernal wrote. “Hunger, homelessness, lack of access to education and health care, poverty among our communities, continued mass shootings throughout the country – those are the emergencies that require our time, energy, and resources.”

Trish Florence, who organized the protest with grassroots advocacy group SATX Indivisible, lambasted the current administration’s immigration policies.

“Trump and his administration have implemented cruel policies for those seeking asylum at the border,” she said. “Trump and the Republicans are attempting to criminalize the legal process of seeking asylum in our country.”

“We can and we must do better.”

Jones, a former military intelligence officer and the event’s last scheduled speaker, reflected on her experience of swearing an oath to the Constitution multiple times throughout her career. She and others pledged to defend the Constitution from “enemies foreign and domestic” with that oath, she said.

“We, the people, refuse to stand idly by as this president and his enablers trample on the Constitution,” she said.

“We the people, whether you are first generation, like I am, or 10th, or Native American – our common lineage is the Constitution.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.