Grassroots Leadership In The News

May 3, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

‘People’s tribunal’ to review alleged abuses at Taylor detention center

An advocacy group that helped an asylum seeker gain her release from an immigrant detention center in Taylor plans to put officials “on trial” Saturday, when alleged abuses at the facility will be aired during an unofficial hearing outside the center.

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and the Williamson County Commissioners were invited to the hearing “for their role in the abuse through maintenance of the T. Don Hutto contract and oversight for the facility and crimes committed by CoreCivic employees and ICE officials,” according to a news release from Grassroots Leadership, a local advocacy group.

If no local officials attend the tribunal Saturday, someone will stand in to represent them, said Bethany Carson, a researcher for Grassroots Leadership.

The two-hour event comes after representatives from GrassRoots Leadership and other community members asked Williamson County Commissioners at meetings this spring to address issues at the detention center. The county commissioners never put the item on their agenda, the Grassroots Leadership news release said.

The group has previously asked Chody to investigate sexual assault allegations at the facility, which houses female asylum seekers. Chody has said he referred the issue to the FBI.

In March, GrassRoots Leadership helped Laura Monterrosa — an asylum seeker from El Salvador who has alleged a female guard at the facility sexually assaulted her — gain her release from the center. Read more about ‘People’s tribunal’ to review alleged abuses at Taylor detention center

Apr 30, 2018
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Houston Public Media

Brian Manley Is The Sole Finalist To Lead The Austin Police Department Permanently

Manley’s investigation of a series of bombings in Austin last month garnered praise from city officials and amplified calls for him to take over on a permanent basis. News of the nomination was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman

But Chris Harris, a campaigns coordinator for the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership, said residents of the city’s East Side – especially people of color – saw law enforcement’s handling of the bomb investigation differently.

“It definitely starts with how Anthony House was portrayed initially,” he said, “and I think there are still questions about how that impacted the investigation.”

House died March 2 when a bomb exploded on his porch. Police initially thought his death was an isolated event and that it was possible he made the bomb himself and accidentally set it off.

Harris called it “odd” that Cronk asked for community input after naming Manley the sole finalist. 

Grassroots Leadership and other groups have urged the city to take its time in appointing a new chief and to open up the vetting process to the public. Harris told KUT last month the city should seek public comment on Manley’s hire.

“If we don’t take the opportunity to get whomever will be the next chief to be on record as supporting policies that reflect the values of the community,” Harris said, “then we’ve lost an extremely valuable opportunity to ensure we improve our police force.” Read more about Brian Manley Is The Sole Finalist To Lead The Austin Police Department Permanently

Apr 26, 2018
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Huffington Post

Jeff Sessions Wants To Make The Justice Department More Like ICE

"But others who work within the system see Sessions’ efforts to double down on immigration enforcement as a strain on the limited resources of federal judiciary. The cost to prosecute people whom Border Patrol or ICE would likely deport anyway topped $1 billion annually for incarceration alone, according to a 2012 analysis published by Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots leadership. That figure doesn’t include all the other resources that DOJ has to muster to make these cases happen: judges, public defenders, prosecutors and U.S. Marshals." Read more about Jeff Sessions Wants To Make The Justice Department More Like ICE

Apr 24, 2018
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Community Impact News

After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

"Lewis Conway Jr., criminal justice organizer at the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said that this campaign has been inadequate.

He pointed to the video, which was posted on YouTube in February 2017 and as of April 2 had been viewed 212 times.

Conway, who served eight years in prison and 12 on parole for voluntary manslaughter, campaigned on behalf of the ordinance.

'As a formerly incarcerated person, employment was probably the most important thing in my life, especially when it’s a condition of parole,' he said.

...“This [ordinance] is an opportunity to put people back into the cycle of life,” Conway said." Read more about After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

Apr 20, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Beside the Point: Get Off Your Butt

"On April 3, in advance of that initial recommended deadline, a coalition of advocates including the Texas Fair Defense Project and Grassroots Leadership held a press conference to request that Council commit to a full repeal – and it was there that Grassroots organizer Chris Harris announced that the city had punted on the OCA's recommended deadline. The city has a team working to assess its overall effort to address the issue, but the coalition would rather not wait. 'We call on our city today to repeal these ordinances," Harris said, "and stop the criminalization of homelessness."'

..."Coalition member Roni Chelben, who works with the Gathering Ground Theatre, a theatre troupe of people experiencing homelessness, told me that the missed deadline made the coalition fear Council is backing away from the issue. 'It's a matter of pressure,' she said. 'Nobody's interested in doing anything about it, because it's a complicated issue.' She questioned why the city would wait for a holistic look at the city's efforts on homelessness before taking action to remove ordinances that are having a demonstrable effect on people's ability to survive right now." Read more about Beside the Point: Get Off Your Butt

Apr 19, 2018
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KUT

Without Final Rules In Place, Austin Closes Two Fair Chance Hiring Complaints

"Conway said ensuring someone with a felony record gets a fair shot amounts to a civil right. A five-year study by the Indiana Department of Correction concluded that education and employment were “the most important predictors of recidivism.”

'At the basic root of why this law is important is because it literally saves lives,' he said. 'When people are not allowed to be employed, they’re going to do what they have to do to feed their kids. They’re going to do what’s necessary to put a roof over their heads. When people go in and out of prison that process can be interrupted with employment.”' Read more about Without Final Rules In Place, Austin Closes Two Fair Chance Hiring Complaints

Apr 18, 2018
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Ahora Si

Tú puedes brindarle apoyo a las detenidas de este centro de detención

"La organización pro inmigrante Grassroots Leadership está invitando a las personas a que se unan como voluntarios para su programa de visitas en el Centro Residencial T. Don Hutto, de Taylor.

El programa de visitas a Hutto comenzó en el 2010 y, según Sofía Casini, quien es la cordinadora de programas migratorios para Grassroots Leadership, entrenan a alrededor de 200 voluntarios al año para que vayan a visitar a las mujeres detenidas." Read more about Tú puedes brindarle apoyo a las detenidas de este centro de detención

Apr 16, 2018
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Politico

How Trump moved the Mexican border north

'“This wasn’t behind closed doors in the middle of the night. This was very much in the community, out in front, for anyone to see,' Sofia Casini, a coordinator at the Austin non-profit Grassroots Leadership, told me. The organization directs a hotline for immigrant families. Before the February raids, the hotline got a couple calls a day; during the operation, she says, it received more than 1,000 calls. 'The vast majority of callers were asking if their kids would be taken away, where they could go and not go, if they should pick their kids up from school,' Cassini said." Read more about How Trump moved the Mexican border north

Apr 16, 2018
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Des Moines Register

Donna Red Wing, 'a force to be reckoned with' in fight for LGBTQ rights, dies after battle with cancer

"Donna Red Wing, a civil rights activist who campaigned for LGBTQ equality, died Monday afternoon at her home in Des Moines after an eight-month battle with cancer. She was 67. 

Red Wing, who was once called as 'the most dangerous woman in America' by the Christian Coalition, spent more than three decades advocating for civil rights. She was described in an obituary as a well-known national leader in the fight for LGBTQ equality." Read more about Donna Red Wing, 'a force to be reckoned with' in fight for LGBTQ rights, dies after battle with cancer

Apr 13, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

GIVING CITY: $750,000 in funding cut for immigrant legal assistance

"The effective elimination of the legal orientation program further isolates people already living in geographically remote detention centers, a situation that concerns Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

'Further restricting access to these facilities and isolating people in detention does grave harm to the interest of justice and to individuals,' he said. He said Grassroots Leadership’s regular visits to detainees at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor led to an FBI investigation of sexual assault claims at the center." Read more about GIVING CITY: $750,000 in funding cut for immigrant legal assistance

Apr 13, 2018
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La Opinion

La “cero tolerancia” en la frontera de Estados Unidos no desalentará a quienes huyen por su vida: expertos

"Algo que sí logra este tipo de medida es engrosar las ganancias de cárceles privadas y gastar mucho dinero del erario público, sin que se haya comprobado la efectividad de la medida para detener futura inmigración. Según un estudio del grupo Grassroots Leadership, Operation Streamline ha costado al menos 7,000 millones de dólares desde su origen." Read more about La “cero tolerancia” en la frontera de Estados Unidos no desalentará a quienes huyen por su vida: expertos

Apr 11, 2018
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Rewire

#ICEOnTrial: Advocates Rally to Hold Federal Agency Accountable for Systemic Abuses

'“The fact is that ICE is now acting with more impunity than ever; it’s actively retaliating against people who speak out. Look what happened to Laura Monterrosa. What happened to her is happening at detention centers across the country,' Merton said.

As Rewire.News reported, Laura Monterrosa alleged that she was was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a guard while detained in the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. The guard remained employed at Hutto during the bulk of Monterrosa’s detainment. After public pressure to launch a criminal investigation, ICE said it reviewed her case and found Monterrosa’s claims to be “unsubstantiated.” ICE eventually released her from custody, after the Salvadoran migrant attempted suicide." Read more about #ICEOnTrial: Advocates Rally to Hold Federal Agency Accountable for Systemic Abuses

Apr 6, 2018
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KOOP

Decriminalizing Homelessness / Celebrating Cesar Chavez's Legacy

"This episode of KOOP Radio's People United presents coverage of both a press conference by the Decarcerate ATX coalition, which wants a repeal of city ordinances that put unreasonable burdens on homeless residents of Austin, Texas, and the 17th annual Cesar Chavez "¡Sí, Se Puede!" March on Austin's east side, which focused on issues affecting low-income Latino residents.  At the press conference, Austin City Council member Greg Casar from District 4, John Elford of the University United Methodist Church, Cate Graziani and Chris Harris of Grassroots Leadership, Annette Price of the Texas Fair Defense Project, and Austin resident Alvin Sanderson spoke outside the Austin Convention Center on April 3, 2018. " Read more about Decriminalizing Homelessness / Celebrating Cesar Chavez's Legacy

Apr 4, 2018
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KLBJ

Austin Group is Seeking an Ordinance to Stop the City from targeting the Homeless

"'Don't criminalize the homeless.'  That's the message from a group who is advocating for an end to city ordinances that targets the homeless, including one that bans them from sleeping on downtown sidewalks and another that regulates panhandling.  Albin Sanderson is homeless and says these ordinances make life even tougher for him, as well says he almost drowned in a recent rainstorm because he couldn't sleep on the city streets.  He and other advocates say the city should stop criminalizing homelessness and instead find ways to put them into jobs.  Others say fining them only keeps them in debt and on the street.

Protesters are demanding that Austin changes its ordinances targeting homeless people and there are three items on the books that protesters are taking issue with, including one that limits where the homeless can camp and how they can panhandle.  

Homeless supporters say the city should be giving the homeless jobs instead of fining them or putting them in jail." Read more about Austin Group is Seeking an Ordinance to Stop the City from targeting the Homeless

Apr 4, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis County eyes new women’s jail facility

"I’m supportive of trying everything we can regarding jail diversion efforts, especially for misdemeanor cases. But, jail diversion efforts will take time, and I expect activist groups (especially Grassroots Leadership) to help with this effort. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those who didn’t want the county to go ahead with the new women’s facility will be actively involved in meaningful ways to divert women from our jail. Effective jail diversion efforts will also take lots of money and community services, which means taxpayers would more than likely have to foot the bill. In the meantime, this office is working diligently in trying to find ways to lower our overall jail population by being an active participant in our Jail Population Monitoring Group." Read more about Travis County eyes new women’s jail facility

Apr 3, 2018
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Fox 7

Advocates call for the city to end ordinances targeting homeless

"A coalition called “Decarcerate ATX”  is calling on the city of Austin to repeal three ordinances they say: criminalize the homeless.

The first ordinance, 9.4.14 prohibits sitting or lying on a sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in the downtown business area. The other is ordinance 9.4.13, which limits actions related to panhandling. The third ordinance 9.4.11 is an ordinance banning camping in public areas. 

The advocates said they are calling on city council to get rid of the rules, as they only make things worse, they said. Albin Sanderson is homeless right now. At a Tuesday press conference, he described a time when officers approached him while he was sleeping one evening." Read more about Advocates call for the city to end ordinances targeting homeless

Apr 3, 2018
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The Patch

Advocates Call For End To 'Criminalization' Of Austin's Homeless

"'The Decarcerate ATX coalition is calling for an immediate repeal of these ordinances and an end to the criminalization of homelessness,' officials said in a press advisory ahead of the gathering.

Added Cate Graziani, criminal justice campaigns coordinator with Grassroots Leadership: 'In addition to talking about fair housing, let's not omit that Austin is putting people in jail for homelessness instead of providing homes, jobs, or services. These ordinances do not deter people from living outside when they have nowhere else to go. By funneling people into the criminal justice system, these ordinances make it more difficult for people to secure housing and employment."' Read more about Advocates Call For End To 'Criminalization' Of Austin's Homeless

Apr 3, 2018
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Austin Monitor

Will Manley be made police chief? City manager remains mum

"Chris Harris of Grassroots Leadership, one of the groups that has pushed in recent years to increase police accountability, challenged the notion that Manley's handling of the bombings made him right for the job. 

'You say it ain’t broke,' he said, referring to Tyrees comments. 'I think many other people in our community dont share that perspective.'

Harris also argued that there were unanswered questions about the investigation into the bombings, including the police departments initial theory that Anthony House, the first bombing victim, may have made the bomb himself." Read more about Will Manley be made police chief? City manager remains mum

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