Matt Rinaldi offers different accounts of 'illegal immigrant' signs blamed for his calls to ICE

Here are some of the signs held by opponents of Senate Bill 4 during protests at the Texas Capitol on May 29, 2017 (Ricardo B. Braizziell, Austin American-Statesman).
Here are some of the signs held by opponents of Senate Bill 4 during protests at the Texas Capitol on May 29, 2017 (Ricardo B. Braizziell, Austin American-Statesman).

When we came up empty on confirmation that chanting protesters in the Texas House self-identified as unauthorized immigrants, readers pointed out that the legislator who claimed as much, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, had just given interviews presenting a different account of the signs that he says led him to call ICE on Memorial Day 2017.

To recap, we proved unable to confirm that protesters filling the public gallery overlooking the House floor May 29, the last day of the 2017 regular legislative session, held signs stating: "I am illegal and here to stay," which is what Rinaldi said in a Facebook post that afternoon. See our full look into that Rinaldi account here.

Yet Rinaldi, who has not returned our calls, presented a different account--not repeating his original direct quotation of the signs at issue and also saying he saw people holding the signs before he entered the House that morning--in separate June 1 interviews.

In a morning radio interview, Rinaldi told Mark Davis, who hosts a talk show on Irving-based KSKY-AM, that he saw protesters holding signs self-identifying as "illegal" immigrants as he walked into and through the Capitol toward the House chamber that morning.

Key excerpt:

DAVIS: "I think we need to talk about the sign. It said, we’re here to stay, which no legal immigrant would ever say. And that made you think, wow, we might actually have illegal immigrants in the gallery of the House. So take it from there."

RINALDI: "So Mark, I’m a lawmaker walking into the Capitol. There’s a huge protest, they’re being peaceful at the time. Many of them have signs saying actually undocumented and here to stay and undocumented and unafraid. Ok. Walk into the Capitol and in the gallery, and later on, they’re chanting here to stay, like you said. And the gallery became a mob. It shut down the House…"

On the same day, after the Davis interview, Rinaldi told Neil Cavuto of the Fox Business Network that he saw the provocative signs as he was walking past protesters into the Capitol and House chamber.

"Me as a lawmaker, I come in and see many of them holding signs saying undocumented and here to stay and similar signs to that, basically admitting that they’re breaking the law," Rinaldi said. "That said, I come into the House chamber and the protest turned into a mob." A moment later, he said he’d called ICE, "I’d remembered the signs when I came in and I thought, you know, somebody is admitting to breaking the law, that’s probably something that federal law enforcement would be interested in."

Cavuto pressed if such signs were indeed held by "illegals" in the chamber, adding that some of Rinaldi’s Democratic colleagues had said that was not the case.

"No, it’s the case…," Rinaldi replied. "As I was walking in, we very clearly saw them. Other lawmakers saw them as well. They were also chanting in the gallery, you know,  ‘Ho, ho, here to stay,’ which you don’t say if you’re obviously a legal immigrant."