Following the passage of Texas' anti-"sanctuary city" Senate Bill 4 in 2017, and with evidence of persistent racial disparities in local policing, a grassroots coalition of justice advocates pushed for rules that would protect immigrants and reduce disproportionate arrests. In June 2018, the Austin City Council passed the Freedom Cities Policies, an effort led by groups including Grassroots Leadership, Workers Defense Project, United We Dream Texas, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. One year later, the organizations applaud some headway made, but say there's a lot more work to be done when it comes to compliance.
One goal of the policies is to reduce the Austin Police Department's discretionary arrests for such citation-eligible offenses as driving without a license, and racial disparities in arrests generally. This work was informed by Grassroots Leadership's report, based on 2015 booking data, showing black residents experience significantly longer periods of jail time and are incarcerated at much higher rates than the white population charged with the same crimes in Travis County.