Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Saturday condemned what he called “reckless” and “divisive” attacks on immigrants from the state’s Republican leaders.

Speaking to more than 1,000 attendees at the UnidosUS conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Saturday, Nirenberg said the progress the group had made on Latino rights was at risk of regressing in Texas.

“Just days removed from the worst migrant tragedy in the history of our country … the Lieutenant Governor of Texas reminded us of that,” said Nirenberg, referring to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s remarks on Fox News Tuesday claiming Texas is being “invaded.”

“This cynical refrain, a racist trope, targets our Hispanic and immigrant communities,” said Nirenberg. “We cannot let bigotry become mainstream again.”

Last month 53 migrants died in San Antonio after a truck that was carrying them was abandoned on the city’s Southwest Side. Dozens of migrants were packed inside with no air conditioning or water, causing heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“We need humane policy reforms, not political scapegoats,” said Nirenberg.

Nirenberg’s comments come as San Antonio this week opened a new migrant resource and processing center to assist the growing number of migrants being brought to San Antonio from the U.S-Mexico border.

That move has drawn criticism from some local Republicans, who say the city shouldn’t be involved in aiding migrants. Flyers alerting party activists about the center’s opening were distributed at a GOP gathering at Aggie Park Thursday night, where Bexar County Commissioner Marialyn Barnard said it was “unacceptable.”

UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, is hosting its annual conference in downtown San Antonio this weekend for the first time in three years.

The mayor asked attendees to take note of the city’s approach to welcoming and aiding migrants — a sharp contrast to the state’s Republican leaders, who this week asked state authorities to apprehend migrants and return them to the border.

“San Antonio is the largest Latino-majority city in the nation, a city with an important history in our nation’s march to justice and equal opportunity,” said Nirenberg, who pointed to his wife Erika Prosper Nirenberg’s childhood working in migrant fields.

“When you leave here, I hope you will remember it is leading compassionately to confront our collective quest for equity,” said the mayor.

Nirenberg’s office is nonpartisan. He butted heads with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on mask mandates throughout the pandemic.

On Saturday, Nirenberg also took aim at the GOP-led legislature for passing new laws aimed at restricting voting access.

We’re “seeing a rapid increase in voter suppression and redistricting across minority communities and districts designed to dilute their voting strength,” said Nirenberg. “We live in troubling times.”

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.