Grassroots Leadership In The News

Jun 22, 2018
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NMPolitics.net

Trump wants to prosecute all illegal border crossings without splitting up families. That will be a challenge.

The two family detention centers in Texas are operated under intergovernmental service agreements that allow for ICE to work with local jurisdictions, which hand operations over to private prison companies, CoreCivic and the GEO Group.

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an immigrants rights group, said the government goes through these agreements because they’re faster than a direct contract with the operating companies. With the new federal policy and increased detention of families, he expects to see solicitations for new family centers. Read more about Trump wants to prosecute all illegal border crossings without splitting up families. That will be a challenge.

Jun 21, 2018
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San Antonio Current

'Vigil for Humanity' Opposing Family Separations to Be Held Outside of San Fernando Cathedral

On Sunday, June 24, there will be a “Vigil for Humanity” in front of San Fernando Cathedral at 6 p.m. to express opposition toward the U.S. government’s systematic mistreatment of asylum seekers. The event, originally intended to protest the mass separation of immigrant families (a part of the ‘zero tolerance policy’), has not shifted focus in light of Trump’s Wednesday signing of an executive order which substitutes this practice of separation with communal family detention.  

In a press release posted Wednesday, Grassroots Leadership, a national civil and human rights organization based in Austin, stated “the president’s order merely transforms a mass family separation crisis to a mass family incarceration crisis.” Read more about 'Vigil for Humanity' Opposing Family Separations to Be Held Outside of San Fernando Cathedral

Jun 21, 2018
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Episcopal News Service

Prayer service set at Texas detention center during General Convention

Responding to calls from Episcopalians across the church to act on behalf of families seeking asylum at the southern U. S. border, a team of concerned leaders heading to General Convention has planned a prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, at about noon on Sunday, July 8.

The planning team, led by alternate Deputy Megan Castellan, rector of St. John’s Church in Ithaca, New York, is working with Grassroots Leadership — a local community organizing group in Texas that has held numerous gatherings at the Hutto Residential Center. Deputy Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, is helping to arrange buses to the event. Read more about Prayer service set at Texas detention center during General Convention

Jun 21, 2018
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Truthout

GEO Group and Private Prisons Stand to Profit as Trump Pushes Indefinite Family Detention

President Donald Trump’s executive order ending family separations at the border opts to indefinitely detain families together instead. The Nation reports that this policy will directly benefit the two largest prison companies in the United States: GEO Group and CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America. We speak with Bob Libal, the executive director of the Austin-based civil and human rights group Grassroots Leadership. They sued the state of Texas when it tried to classify ICE’s family detention centers as “child care” facilities. They won, but the detention centers continue to operate without a license. His new article in the Texas Observer is headlined, “It’s Time to Decriminalize Immigration.” It is co-authored with Judy Greene. Read more about GEO Group and Private Prisons Stand to Profit as Trump Pushes Indefinite Family Detention

Jun 20, 2018
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The Daily Beast

Poor Medical Care in ICE Custody Is Fatal, New Report Finds

Half the people who died in ICE custody in recent years could potentially have been saved if they had just gotten adequate medical care, according to a new report from immigration advocacy groups.

Bob Libal, who heads the anti-detention group Grassroots Leadership, said that just being detained can harm people’s health. 

“Detention is traumatizing, particularly for people who have been traumatized,” he said. “So there are additional ailments that people get from being in detention. So it’s both about the treatment and about detention itself being physically and mentally distressing.” Read more about Poor Medical Care in ICE Custody Is Fatal, New Report Finds

Jun 20, 2018
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The Nation

How Private Contractors Enable Trump’s Cruelties at the Border

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that ends family separations at the border by indefinitely detaining parents and children together. Such a policy is illegal. It violates a 20-year-old court settlement called the Flores Agreement, which limits how long and under what conditions children can be kept in immigration-detention facilities. Choosing to ignore Flores allows Trump to put children in the same cages as their parents, indefinitely, for those accused of the misdemeanor of unauthorized border crossing. It will create a Guantánamo in the Southwest United States.

According to a 2015 Grassroots Leadership report, CCA, Geo Group, and their counterparts operate 62 percent of all immigration-detention centers. Their business model was bolstered by a congressional quota mandating that ICE maintain 34,000 detention beds every day, whether filled or not. Read more about How Private Contractors Enable Trump’s Cruelties at the Border

Jun 20, 2018
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The Texas Observer

It’s Time to Decriminalize Immigration

Prosecuting migrants is not a substitute for civil deportation, but instead postpones that process and adds additional human and financial costs associated with their criminalization. Because these prosecutions have primarily been concentrated in five federal court jurisdictions located along the U.S.-Mexico border, they have remained the least publicized element of the immigration enforcement machinery. Still, they represent the most severe exercise of federal power in furtherance of immigration enforcement.

The incarceration costs for improper entry and re-entry were $7 billion between 2005 and 2015, according to research conducted jointly by Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership. These costs are increasing, yet, there is no credible evidence that migrants are deterred from crossing or re-crossing the border. Read more about It’s Time to Decriminalize Immigration

Jun 19, 2018
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The Los Angeles Times

'Freedom city'? Going beyond 'sanctuary,' Austin, Texas, vows to curtail arrests

Amid the controversy over sanctuary cities, Austin this month took its fight against strict immigration law enforcement a step further by declaring itself to be the first “freedom city” in Texas. City Council members unanimously passed two resolutions last week that will restrict police attempts to question immigrants about their status and curtail arrests for nonviolent crimes.

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that pushed the initiative, said in a statement that the council’s move was an “important first step.”

“This is a long-term struggle and we are in part one of what is actually a decathlon,” said Rebecca Sanchez, a representative of Grassroots Leadership. “We’re committed to fighting for a city where we redefine safety for ourselves and not through badges, and where we determine how our communities thrive.” Read more about 'Freedom city'? Going beyond 'sanctuary,' Austin, Texas, vows to curtail arrests

Jun 15, 2018
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CBS Austin

Austin becomes Texas' first 'Freedom City'

Austin City Council has unanimously passed what are being called "Freedom City" resolutions.

Groups including Grassroots Leadership, Workers Defense Project and United We Dream say minorities across the country and here in Austin aren't treated fairly when it comes to arrests or interactions with police.

“We are excited about our victory tonight. This is an important first step for the city to take,” says Rebecca Sanchez of Grassroots Leadership. “This is a long term struggle and we are in part one of what is actually a decathlon. We’re committed to fighting for a city where we redefine safety for ourselves — and not through badges, and where we determine how our communities thrive.” Read more about Austin becomes Texas' first 'Freedom City'

Jun 15, 2018
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Community Impact Newsletter

Austin City Council unanimously approves “Freedom City” policies

Late Thursday evening, Austin City Council voted unanimously to pass two “Freedom City” ordinances intended to reduce racial disparities in discretionary arrests and to ensure police officers who ask about immigration status inform people of their right not to answer.

More than 100 people signed up to speak about the policies.

“This is an important first step for the city to take,” said Rebecca Sanchez of the local nonprofit group Grassroots Leadership, which works to end mass incarceration, in a statement on Thursday. “We’re committed to fighting for a city where we redefine safety for ourselves—and not through badges—and where we determine how our communities thrive.” Read more about Austin City Council unanimously approves “Freedom City” policies

Jun 14, 2018
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The Austin Chronicle

Civics 101

Thursday 14

AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL VOTE ON FREEDOM CITY POLICY Join Grassroots Leadership, Texas Advocates for Justice, and more to urge City Council to approve the Freedom City policy (Items 73 and 74) and move toward making Austin an inclusive and safe city for all. 5:30-8pm. Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 512/974-2220. www.austintexas.gov. Read more about Civics 101

Jun 14, 2018
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Downtown Austin Patch

Austin Activists Stage 'Families Belong Together' Protest (Video)

Hundreds of people are expect to descend on the grounds of the state Capitol on Thursday evening to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant children from their parents amid an immigration crackdown.

"We have been working with local and national organizations to raise our voices in protest against this inhumane treatment of people who are seeking refuge at our door," organizers wrote on the Facebook event page. One of those organizations, Grassroots Leadership, previously staged an event in front of City Hall in support of the city council's vote on efforts to mitigate the disproportionate number of minorities jailed in Austin for minor offenses. Read more about Austin Activists Stage 'Families Belong Together' Protest (Video)

Jun 14, 2018
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KXAN

City Council passes ordinances targeting racial disparity in arrests

A study that tracked Austin Police Department arrests shows African-Americans were more likely to get arrested instead of just getting a ticket for minor non-violent misdemeanor offenses than any other race. Those include marijuana possession, driving with an invalid driver's license and city ordinance violations.

"African-Americans and Latinos make up about 45 percent of Austin's population but from police data, it shows they make up 75 percent of the driving while license invalid arrest," Casar said.

Data analyst and campaigns coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, Chris Harris, believes there's a problem with our justice system.

"Racial disparity and arrests are a serious problem in our community," he said.  Read more about City Council passes ordinances targeting racial disparity in arrests

Jun 12, 2018
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FOX 7 Austin

Advocates push for "freedom policies" before Thursday council meeting

Karen Reyes recalls a time last year when she thought she'd never see her mother again.

“My mom was pulled over and it was a really, really scary time for her and myself as well as other people who were undocumented,” said Reyes who is a teacher.“As a teacher I saw a lot of the trust between our communities and the police kind of break down when we were having a lot of ICE raids last year."

She is one of many who believe arrests for minor offenses can lead to the deportation pipeline.  She also thinks the City of Austin should adopt two resolutions, coined “freedom policies,” authored by council member Greg Casar.

“What we're talking about are low level offenses that the state legislature back in 2007 said, police can give tickets for this,” said Chris Harris with Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Advocates push for "freedom policies" before Thursday council meeting

Jun 12, 2018
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KVUE

Councilman Casar introduces Freedom City Policy ahead of Thursday's meeting

On Tuesday morning, Austin City District Four Councilman Greg Casar, alongside other council members and advocates, discussed the potential of implementing the Freedom City policies in Austin.

Authored by Casar, the Freedom City policies make up items 73 and 74 on the city council agenda for Thursday night and target the racial disparities in arrests and citations issued by Austin police.

At City Hall Tuesday Morning, Casar was joined by members of the groups Grassroots Leadership, Texas Advocates for Justice, Workers Defense Project and United We Dream. Read more about Councilman Casar introduces Freedom City Policy ahead of Thursday's meeting

Jun 10, 2018
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The University Star

The Dialogues for Activism follows its second year at the LBJ Museum

Following a year of racial tension and contention surrounding immigration, 2018’s continuation of the Dialogues for Activism series began June 8 and tackles topics of social change.

Hosted at the LBJ Museum of San Marcos on the Square, the first day of the three-week series held two dialogues, with the first on DACA, DREAMers and SB4, and the second on immigration and intersectionality. The event welcomed community members, activists, professors and students.

The second session’s panel included Sulma Franco of Grassroots Leadership, Yunuen Alvarado of SCOPE and immigration attorney Leonardo De La Garza, who all shared advice and personal experiences on facing immigration issues. They also mentioned the lack of awareness for the LGBTQ+ community’s struggle in detention centers and in Latin America all-around. Read more about The Dialogues for Activism follows its second year at the LBJ Museum

Jun 9, 2018
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Community Impact Newsletter

ARCH shelter among Austin’s ‘greatest failures’ in addressing homelessness, downtown leader says

Several community leaders criticized Austin’s response to the growing homeless population during a public safety discussion this week, blaming much of the issue on a lack of adequate services.

Chris Harris with Grassroots Leadership agreed with the notion that the city substantially lacks services; however, he said the police department’s enforcement of “ineffective” ordinances drain city resources that could be put toward solutions. Read more about ARCH shelter among Austin’s ‘greatest failures’ in addressing homelessness, downtown leader says

Jun 8, 2018
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New York Daily News

How old laws and Trump's new anti-immigration fervor brought us to this dark day on deportations

Our country has reached a new low. Last week, Pablo Villavicencio, the husband of a U.S. citizen and father of two U.S.-citizen daughters, was detained and placed on a fast-track to deportation while delivering pizza to a military base in Brooklyn.

The two largest for-profit companies, GEO and Core Civica, experienced a boom in their bottom lines since the quota was implemented.

According to Grassroots Leadership, GEO saw an increase in their profits from $41 million in 2007 to $143 million in 2014, a 244% increase. Read more about How old laws and Trump's new anti-immigration fervor brought us to this dark day on deportations

Jun 8, 2018
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KXAN

City manager asks council to approve Manley as permanent APD chief

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk is asking city council to confirm interim Police Chief Brian Manley during its meeting next week.

In a press conference Friday, Cronk and Manley both said they'd use that feedback to make improvements to the police force moving forward.

As they made their announcement, some community activists, who have been critical of Austin police in the past, stood behind them. Others, however, say there's still work to be done.

"It's really hard to imagine a shift, a cultural shift, whenever its an individual who's spent decades on the same force," said Rebecca Sanchez of Grassroots Leadership.

Sanchez pointed out that the announcement of Manley's appointment came just one day after a 20-year-old woman with a knife was shot and killed by an Austin police officer, even after APD enacted a new de-escalation policy at the start of the year.

"A person is dead," Sanchez said. "A person is dead. There were a number of people who had a lot more power at their belt and a lot more tools to use than, clearly, she did, in the moment." Read more about City manager asks council to approve Manley as permanent APD chief

Jun 7, 2018
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The Daily Beast

Ronal Francisco Romero Died in Agony in ICE Custody. Now His Family Is Preparing to Sue.

According to previously unreported court documents reviewed by The Daily Beast, the mother of an undocumented immigrant who died of bacterial meningitis is preparing for civil action related to his death. On June 4, Honduran native Martina Blasina Romero petitioned a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas to authorize depositions of the people who were held with her son, Ronal Francisco Romero, and know about the health collapse he experienced in his last days.

Advocates have long decried the health care problems associated with the immigration detention system.

“This is a longstanding and persistent issue,” said Bob Libal, who heads the anti-detention group Grassroots Leadership. “This is an agency that increasingly is not interested in the health and welfare of people in its custody and it’s also an entity that has expanded so rapidly over the last 15 years that providing even the most basic of safety for people who are in its custody is something that is difficult.” Read more about Ronal Francisco Romero Died in Agony in ICE Custody. Now His Family Is Preparing to Sue.

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