Chaos at Texas Capitol as Lawmakers Scuffle, Issue Threats Amid Immigration Protest

May 30, 2017

The House floor of the Texas State Legislature on Monday was disrupted by a heated exchange when State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R., Irving) told his Democratic colleagues that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on protesters at the State Capitol.

More than a thousand protestors gathered to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 4, a bill banning so-called sanctuary cities in Texas and allowing law enforcement officers to ask detained people about immigration status, the Texas Observer reported.

Rinaldi told State Rep. Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez (D., Eagle Pass) and other colleagues that he had called ICE on the protestors, whom Rinaldi said were carrying signs reading, "I am illegal and here to stay."

"There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads," State Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D., San Antonio) said after the incident. "That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out and held accountable for."

"Fuck them, I called ICE," Rinaldi said, according to State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. (D., Fort Worth).

"He saw a bunch of people who look Latino, and he assumed they were undocumented," Romero told the Observer. "So how can he say SB 4 won’t lead to racial profiling?"

The comments nearly ignited a fight among the three lawmakers before their colleagues broke it up, according to Romero.

Rinaldi defended himself in a subsequent Facebook post where he said Nevarez "threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said 'I am illegal and here to stay.'"

"When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues," Rinaldi continued. "During that time Poncho told me that he would 'get me on the way to my car.' He later approached me and reiterated that 'I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.''

Rinaldi concluded in his post that he would shoot Nevárez in self defense if he tried to "get me."

Published under: Immigration , Texas