The #19TooMany Campaign

Travis County, Texas, has one of the highest deportation rates in the U.S. thanks to the local sheriff’s voluntary cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An average of 19 immigrants a week are deported here. Stopping the deportation dragnet in Travis County would mean stopping the potential detention and deportation of thousands of Austin-area residents. Grassroots Leadership, in coalition with other groups in the Austin-area, is making that happen by engaging in direct action, community education, and dialogue with local elected officials.

 

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Mar 28, 2017
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Alternet

Is Trump Waging a Stealth War of Retaliation Against Sanctuary Cities?

As Attorney General Jeff Sessionsdoubles down on President Donald Trump’s threats to crack down on sanctuary cities, evidence is mounting that the administration has already made them the target of retaliatory immigration raids as part of a backdoor effort to force compliance.

The term “sanctuary city” refers to thehundreds of jurisdictions across the United States that, to one degree or another, limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

CNN reported on March 25 that an unnamed “senior U.S. immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions” testified that federal authorities have descended upon sanctuary cities to pressure them to cooperate. Journalist Maria Santana wrote, “High-ranking ICE officials have discussed in internal meetings carrying out more raids on those locations [sanctuary cities]."

While Santana’s source did not reveal his or her identity, a federal judge proclaimed in open court on March 20 that he was told firsthand by federal agents that aggressive immigration raids in Austin this February were orchestrated in direct retaliation for sanctuary policies adopted by a local sheriff. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin’s assertion was first reported by Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman.

In early February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out aggressive sweeps throughout Austin, arresting at least 51 people, as part of coordinated raids across the country. “They were pulling people over on the side of the road, apprehending them at their homes, knocking on doors and profiling people,” Cristina Parker, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet.

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“This retaliation was a vengeful tactic by ICE for all the progress the immigrant community has gained in this county in the last four years,” said the Travis County campaign, ICE Out of Austin. “This is as much an attack on the local democratic process, the immigrant community and their leadership as it is on our sheriff's policy. We fought too hard and too long to let ICE intimidate us back into accepting our deportations. We will continue to struggle and fight to end deportations.” Read more about Is Trump Waging a Stealth War of Retaliation Against Sanctuary Cities?

To distract from his boss’ failures, Sessions threatens “sanctuary cities” — again

(AUSTIN, Texas) — The Trump administration continued its campaign of fear mongering and misinformation today, repeating old threats to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” by withholding federal funding, actions that legal experts say are (still) likely unconstitutional.

In a public announcement obviously intended to distract from the Trump administration’s humiliating defeat on healthcare last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated threats to defund “sanctuary cities” — all from a previous executive order. Read more about To distract from his boss’ failures, Sessions threatens “sanctuary cities” — again

Mar 27, 2017
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The Daily Beast

Sanctuary City Starts GoFundMe After Gov Cuts Grants

In Austin, some courts might have to be crowdfunded.

That’s because the city is what President Donald Trump calls a “sanctuary city”—and it’s facing extraordinary pressure, both political and financial, to join the Trump administration’s mass deportation efforts.

Austin is in Travis County, where its so-called sanctuary policy has already cost it $1.5 million in state funding that would have paid for drug courts, veterans’ courts, and aid to domestic violence victims.

Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other advocates of tougher immigration enforcement urge local police and sheriffs to help ICE in its deportation efforts. But many local law enforcement officials—including including Travis County’s new sheriff, Sally Hernandez—are hesitant, fearing that undocumented immigrants will be less likely to help police track down dangerous criminals if those police are in cahoots with ICE.

When Hernandez announced the county wouldn’t always cooperate with Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott cut state funding to the county.

So the sheriff’s supporters are now crowdfunding to make up for the lost cash—cash that pays for special courts designed to help War on Terror veterans with PTSD and parents with drug addictions. And it’s unlikely to be an anomaly, as Austin has become a national focal point in Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

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That’s a lot of pressure by itself—lost funding, and even the threat of prison. But some say it’s not all. Bob Libal, who heads the anti-deportation group Grassroots Leadership, told The Daily Beast in February that he thought ICE deportation raids taking in place in Austin were retaliation for Hernandez’s policy. Since then, a federal magistrate judge said she shared that view.

Libal said he thinks ICE crackdowns will continue.

“We fully anticipate that we will continue to be a target,” he said. Read more about Sanctuary City Starts GoFundMe After Gov Cuts Grants

Mar 21, 2017
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Downtown Austin patch

Federal Judge Confirms Heightened Austin ICE Action Is Payback For Softened Immigration Policy

The recent sweeps for undocumented immigrants in Austin by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were done in retaliation for the new sheriff's policy ending a close partnership with the federal agency over a preference in focusing on high-level felons for deportation, according to a published report.

As first reported by the Austin American-Statesman Monday, federal agents privately alerted two magistrate judges in late January they would target Austin with heightened a heightened immigration crackdown.

The reason: A more nuanced policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez that doesn't cooperate with ICE in honoring so-called "detainers," 48-hour holds placed on any arrested person suspected of being undocumented to allow an agent plenty of time to arrive (usually from San Antonio) to fetch the detained person and follow up on deportation.

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“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town, that it was going to be a specific operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin said, as quoted by the Statesman.

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What followed less than three months later was unprecedented in Austin, with people being pulled over on roadways or visited at homes and workplaces as ICE agents descended on Austin to root out undocumented immigrants beginning in early February. ICE agents' efforts undoubtedly were fueled by Hernandez's more softened approach but buoyed by Donald Trump and Greg Abbott, both eager proponents of wholesale deportations from their presidential and governor's perches, respectively. 

Immediately, suspicions emerged that the crackdown never before seen (the undocumented before detected largely during times of arrest, not personal visits by ICE agents) was sort of payback against Hernandez. The revelation made in court on Monday seems to support those suspicions.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, reacted angrily to the revelations, calling out past missives by ICE positing enforcement action as routine to have been outright lies.

“This revelation in open court proves what immigrants and advocates have known for years — that ICE regularly lies to immigrants, local officials, and the media,” Libal said. “Now more than ever, officials at every level of government should rethink their relationship with this agency, and cut ties with an entity that used its power to terrorize our community and then lies to elected officials about the reason for its operation.” Read more about Federal Judge Confirms Heightened Austin ICE Action Is Payback For Softened Immigration Policy

Mar 23, 2017
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The Daily Texan

Federal judge says Austin ICE raids in response to sanctuary policy

A federal judge revealed Monday that federal agents told him last month’s immigration enforcement raids in Austin were in response to a policy protecting undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents notified him and another judge about a specific operation during a meeting in late January. The mid-Feburary raids occurred after the Travis County Sheriff’s Office stopped allowing ICE agents to detain inmates without warrants space on Feb. 1.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy, that this was going to happen,” Austin said in open court.

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A federal judge revealed Monday that federal agents told him last month’s immigration enforcement raids in Austin were in response to a policy protecting undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents notified him and another judge about a specific operation during a meeting in late January. The mid-Feburary raids occurred after the Travis County Sheriff’s Office stopped allowing ICE agents to detain inmates without warrants space on Feb. 1.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy, that this was going to happen,” Austin said in open court.

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Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County District Attorney, met with ICE regional field office director Dan Bible in February, who told her ICE was not targeting Austin, according to the Statesman.

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Bob Libal, director of immigrants rights advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said ICE cannot be trusted given Monday’s announcement.

“It’s completely outrageous and appalling that ICE is choosing to terrorize the immigrant community in retaliation for a perfectly legal policy,” Libal said. “They are lying to local officials and to the press about what their activities are.” Read more about Federal judge says Austin ICE raids in response to sanctuary policy

Mar 20, 2017
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The Huffington Post

Trump's DHS Rolls Out Public Shaming Campaign Against 'Sanctuary Cities'

The Trump administration has begun publicly shaming so-called “sanctuary cities” in an attempt to get them to cooperate with deportation efforts. 

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday issued a report about jurisdictions that had declined “detainer requests,” or appeals to hold individuals solely to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with some of the crimes those people had been accused of committing.

Such weekly reports are part of President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with ICE in some way, and are seemingly meant to pressure these cities and counties into compliance.

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ICE made 3,083 total requests to detain individuals between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3, according to the report. Jurisdictions declined in at least 206 instances. Travis County, Texas ― which encompasses the city of Austin ― began to implement its “sanctuary” policies on Feb. 1 and accounted for about two-thirds of these denials to detain immigrants. 

Maj. Wes Priddy of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office said his county’s numbers were high because they included many people who had been in custody for months. After Sheriff Sally Hernandez took office, her office compiled all the names of people who wouldn’t be held under the new “sanctuary” policy and submitted them to ICE 10 days before implementing it. 

“The week they chose happens to fall at the time we implemented our new policy,” Priddy told The Huffington Post. “Any subsequent reports that ICE may choose to put out are going to show much smaller numbers.”

Since implementing the new detainer policy, Priddy said, the county jail has released on bonds 38 people with felonies on their records. All but one person, who was charged with driving under the influence, had attended their scheduled court hearings. 

“That’s every bit as good as the record of U.S. citizens that have to go to a court date,” Priddy said. “These people are showing up.” 

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Bob Libal, the director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that pushed for the Travis County sanctuary policy, said the Trump administration’s pressure on local jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE would make immigration enforcement more erratic than it was under former President Barack Obama.

“I fully expect that we’re going to see a dramatic uptick in detainers placed by ICE everywhere in the country, which only increases the rationale for county’s refusing to honor detainers,” Libal told HuffPost. “We’re not going to see the prioritization we saw under the Obama administration. We’re going to see a broad scope of people suspected of being undocumented or any immigration issue.” 

A growing number of local officials have refused over the past several years to honor ICE requests to hold undocumented immigrants, arguing that it undermined immigrants’ faith in local law enforcement and that the detainers funneled too many people with minor offenses or ties to the local community into deportation proceedings. Manylocal officials also worry that honoring all ICE detainers will force them to violate the constitution. Federal courts have ruled that local jurisdictions violate the Fourth Amendment when they honor a request from ICE and hold someone who would otherwise be allowed to go free. Read more about Trump's DHS Rolls Out Public Shaming Campaign Against 'Sanctuary Cities'

Judge exposes ICE retaliation in Austin raids, proving how readily ICE lies to local officials and press

(AUSTIN, Texas) —  Today, Grassroots Leadership reacted to a revelation first made in federal court on Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin confirmed that mass raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Austin in February were retaliation for Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy limiting the use of voluntary immigration detainer requests in the Travis County Jail. Read more about Judge exposes ICE retaliation in Austin raids, proving how readily ICE lies to local officials and press

Mar 3, 2017
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The Austin American Statesman

ICE agents in Travis County courthouses looking for suspects

Juan Coronilla-Guerrero was one of dozens of unauthorized immigrants released from the local jail after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez implemented a new policy to not honor many ICE detainers.

Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife, in a news release from the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, confirmed that Coronilla-Guerrero was one of more than 30 immigrants released in the days following Hernandez’s implementation of a policy that greatly limited cooperation with ICE requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants.

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ICE agents in Austin on Friday detained an immigrant suspected of being in the country illegally at the Travis County courthouse, in what appears to be a new tactic by immigration officials.

Defense attorney Daniel Betts confirmed to the American-Statesman that his client, Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, was detained at the courthouse, where was scheduled to appear for two misdemeanor charges, assault-family violence and possession of marijuana.

Betts said his client was arrested in an elevator at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center.

The Travis County sheriff’s office confirmed that ICE agents were at the courthouse serving a warrant.

Attorney George Lobb, who saw the arrest, said the paperwork he saw was not a warrant or other court order.

“It struck me as extraordinary,” said Betts, who added that his client was in court expressly to resolve the misdemeanor charges so we would not run into problems with immigration.

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The report of federal agents looking for suspects at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center and the Heman Sweatt Travis County Courthouse comes three weeks after an ICE enforcement operation centered on Austin and four other metro areas across the US that led to the arrests of 683 people.

In the past, deportation proceedings in Travis County have largely been prompted by an arrest that led to immigration checks. But during the four-day enforcement operation, ICE officials were out in the community, pulling people over and taking them in.

The mid-February ICE raids fueled speculation that Austin was being singled out because of recent controversy over newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy to deny most of the agency’s requests to delay the release of inmates at the Travis County jail for immigration checks. Read more about ICE agents in Travis County courthouses looking for suspects

Mar 1, 2017
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The Austin American Statesmen

Three weeks after ICE raids, Austin immigrant community still panicked

When news of the ICE raids spread throughout Austin, area nonprofits organized, mobilized and improvised as fear ran through the city’s immigrant community.

Carmen Zuvieta, a volunteer with the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, describes the days during Operation Crosscheck as days of madness. The criminal justice and immigration reform group has operated the ICE Out of Austin campaign for years.

Zuvieta became a leader in the campaign after her husband was deported about four years ago, leaving her to raise her two children on her own. She’s spoken everywhere from City Hall to the University of Texas about the campaign, but since the ICE arrests of 51 people in the ICE raids, she has been volunteering around the clock.

“Although we expected there to be ICE raids, to be honest, I never thought it’d happen with this magnitude,” Zuvieta said.

Three weeks after the enforcement operation, Zuvieta’s cell phone hasn’t stopped ringing. One day she’s buying diapers for families who are here illegally and afraid to leave their homes and the next she’s consoling mothers whose deported children are going back to countries where their lives are in danger.

There hasn’t been a typical day for Zuvieta since the ICE raids. Her day begins at 6 a.m. and immediately checks her phone and social media to check on families and make sure no one else has been arrested. She’s constantly answering calls and texts from distressed families while juggling her own full-time housekeeping job and family. Zuvieta dashes from community meetings to rallies to the homes of families who need a power of attorney in case they get deported and need to leave their children behind with someone.

“My cell phone is working at 100 and my body at zero,” she said. But she converts the pain of having her family separated, she said, into energy to defend other families in fear.

“I see a future that’s very dificult for many of these families,” Zuvieta said. “But I think the pain of their children will transform into desire to make changes in this country.” Read more about Three weeks after ICE raids, Austin immigrant community still panicked

Feb 23, 2017
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WALB News10

Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines

Around the country, President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. have spread fear and anxiety and led many people to brace for arrest and to change up their daily routines in hopes of not getting caught.

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An undocumented Guatemalan migrant mother and her son have called an Austin, Texas, church home for more than a year. Hilda Ramirez says they were fleeing the danger of their country and were caught by immigration authorities as they illegally crossed the border at Texas in 2014. After they were released from a holding facility, a pastor allowed them to live on church grounds.

The unease among immigrants has been building but intensified in recent weeks with ever-clearer signs that the Trump administration would jettison the Obama-era policy of focusing mostly on deporting those who had committed serious crimes.

The administration announced Tuesday that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or other minor offenses, or those who simply crossed the border illegally.

Some husbands and wives fear spouses who lack legal papers could be taken away. And many worry that parents will be separated from their U.S.-born children.

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An organization in Austin, Texas, that runs a deportation hotline said it normally would receive one or two calls every few days. After recent immigration raids, the phone rang off the hook.

"We got over 1,000 phone calls in three days about the raids," said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership. "And certainly a lot of those were people who wanted information about the raids saying, 'I'm scared, I'm worried, what can I do?'... A lot of them were people who were impacted by the raids who saw a friend or family be taken." Read more about Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines

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