Small town Texas mayor met with blowback, praise for fighting 'sanctuary cities' ban

El Cenizo has been a safe haven since 1999

SAN ANTONIO – Raul Reyes, the mayor of El Cenizo, which has officially been a “safe haven” since 1999, said he’s been met with both blowback and praise as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to overturn a new sanctuary cities ban.

Reyes said in a Skype interview, “I continue to believe it’s a reckless, dangerous and discriminatory bill.”

The ban, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, gives law enforcement the option to ask anyone detained or arrested about his or her immigration status.

Luis Vera, national general counsel for the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, said El Cenizo would be most immediately affected as the state’s smallest and oldest sanctuary city. Its small volunteer police force, and even its city employees, are now allowed to ask residents about their immigration status.

City of El Cenizo Ordinance 1999

Reyes, who is the president of a local LULAC chapter, said he readily agreed to take a lead role in the LULAC legal challenge filed within 24 hours after the bill was signed into law.

“It was never just about standing up for my community," Reyes said. "It has always been standing up for what’s right."

Reyes said as a result of the lawsuit, and a report last month, some on social media have said he should be thrown in jail. Another asked how much he’d been paid to cry when he said in the story: “There’s just so much hate.”

"When a cause is important to me, I get very emotional," Reyes said.

City of El Cenizo Complaint 2017

Reyes said he has been encouraged by the positive feedback and support he’s received from around the state and across the country.

Since his volunteer officers could be fined and he could be removed from office for not enforcing the new law effective Sept. 1, Reyes said the El Cenizo City Council would meet to discuss what to do.

However, Reyes said he’s hopeful and confident the "sanctuary cities" bill will be proven unconstitutional before that happens.

“Someone has to stand up for the most vulnerable,” Reyes said. “I’m going to be that person.”