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.
The #19TooMany Campaign
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a "sanctuary cities" ban into law on Facebook Live Sunday night.
Abbott designated the ban as an emergency item in January and signed the bill four days after both chambers of the state legislature gave their final approval.
The passage is a big win for Abbott and Republicans, who advocate for stricter immigration laws. They have tried to pass a limit on immigration every session since 2011.
It will ban cities, counties and universities from prohibiting their local law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status and enforcing immigration law.
It will create a criminal charge for police chiefs, county sheriffs and constables who violate the ban, and will charge local jurisdictions up to $25,000 for each day they violate the law.
The law will also allow police officers to ask about a person's immigration status during any legal detention, which includes traffic stops.
Those who support the ban say it is necessary to keep criminal immigrants off Texas streets. They argue that if officers do not turn over unauthorized immigrants they could go on to commit more serious crimes.
Critics, however, view the matter differently.
"It seems fitting that Greg Abbott would sign this disgraceful bill on the internet on a Sunday night, far from the press and the public," Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said. Read more about Gov. Abbott Signs 'Sanctuary City' Ban: 'Texans Expect Us to Keep Them Safe'
Texas Department of Public Safety officers handcuffed then released at least 18 activists, including CM Greg Casar and Austin Pastor Jim Rigby, after they refused to leave the governor’s offices today. Following an all-day sit-in and protest against anti-immigrant bill SB 4, DPS officers forced journalists to exit the building when it closed at 5pm or face arrest, and blocked the entrance.
Inside, officers gave the protestors a verbal warning then began issuing Class B misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing. Those that did not leave after being cited were tied with plastic cuffs and processed by Judge Nicholas Chu. Event organizers said DPS officers “lied” by telling protesters their attorneys were not allowed in, a rule contradicted by Chu. Just before 7pm, the protestors were released from cuffs by DPS and addressed a growing crowd outside.
Early Monday morning, during a brief press conference organized by Grassroots Leadership at the south gates of the Capitol, Rigby delivered a message to his undocumented neighbors: “We love you and want you here. We would rather suffer by your side than be guilty bystanders to the cruel and undemocratic tyranny of this administration.”
Afterward, protestors marched with handmade signs to the steps of the governor’s office. They entered and took a defiant seat in the middle of the lobby, announcing they would not budge until Abbott kills the bill. The group chanted: “SB 4 is hate! SB 4 is racist!” and “The people united will never be divided!” in between songs and speeches that castigated the legislation as “unconstitutional” and “unjust.” The sit-in, organized by Grassroots Leadership, RAICES, ICE Out of Austin, Sanctuary in the Streets, and Austin Sanctuary Network, began at roughly 10am.
After roughly one hour, protestors linked arm-in-arm and blocked both entrances of the building. Immigration attorneys started leading teach-ins about the impact of SB 4 around 1pm. Texas Department of Public Safety officers, while watching the event, have yet to threaten arrest. Read more about Protesters Stage Sit-in at Governor's Office to Oppose Sanctuary Cities Bill
Roughly 100 people occupied the lobby of the state office building that houses the governor's office Monday demanding Gov. Greg Abbott veto a bill that would allow law enforcement officers across the state to inquire about individuals' citizenship.
With many wearing t-shirts calling for the rejection of the controversial Senate Bill 4 -- the "sanctuary cities" measure -- that passed the Texas House last week, the crowd sang and chanted in Spanish and English phrases like "You shall not pass" and "this entrance is closed" as they locked arms to block people from entering the building.
"SB4 is racist," they chanted as a woman shook a set of green maracas.
They said they planned to stay in the lobby of the building until the governor acquiesces to their request, he rejects the bill or until they forcibly are removed.
"They're going to have to drag us out of here or lock us in the building at the end of the day. We're not leaving," said Cristina Parker, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a group focused on detention and deportation.
The sit-in was put on by Grassroots Leadership and RAICES, a refugee and immigration education and legal advocacy group. Read more about Protesters stage sit-in at governor's office over 'sanctuary cities' bill
About 50 people blocked the entrance to the State Insurance Building on Monday and demanded Gov. Greg Abbott veto the bill he has vowed to sign once it reaches his desk. During the sit-in, about 20 protesters — including Austin city council man Greg Casar — were given citations for trespassing, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The sit-in was organized by advocacy groups including Workers Defense Project and Grassroots Leadership. A few streets away, chants of “How do we build sanctuary? Student workers’ solidarity” resonated during an International Workers’ Day rally and walk-out at the UT Tower.
Members of the UT community demanded the UT administration declare and establish UT as a “sanctuary campus” protecting its undocumented students. Read more about Protesters participate in sit-in demanding Gov. Greg Abbott to not sign 'sanctuary cities' bill
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar along with nearly two dozen other people were arrested and cited for criminal trespassing after they staged a sit-in to protest Senate Bill 4 at Gov. Greg Abbott’s office Monday afternoon.
Immigrant community members, faith leaders and other elected officials were at the Texas State Capitol to protest the so-called sanctuary cities bill, which is expected to head to Abbott’s desk in a few weeks. The protest was organized to urge Abbott to veto the legislation when it gets to his desk. But if he does sign the bill into law, the group says they will continue with protests in the streets.
Once the protesters were removed from the building, the group started chanting: “Down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation.”
Despite passionate pleas from Democrats to stop SB 4, Republicans had the votes to push the measure through last week. During the heated debate, supporters managed to beef up the bill from the original version. House members approved anamendment from Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, that gives police more leeway to ask about a person’s legal status. It lets a police officer ask about a person’s immigration status while they’re being detained. Some departments currently limit officers to asking those questions only after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime. Read more about Austin Council Member greg
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar was among 18 protestors who were arrested Monday evening and issued citations for criminal trespassing after staging a sit-in at Governor Greg Abbott's business office.
The group staged a sit-in at the office after a morning protest at the south gate of the Capitol to speak against Senate Bill 4 (SB4).
The bill, which was passed by the Senate in February and the House of Representatives last week, will require all Texas law enforcement honor ICE detainers.
Governor Abbott made banning "sanctuary cities" an emergency item during his State of the State address, indicating his plans to support legislation like SB4. But the protestors are asking him to instead veto the bill.
Troopers informed the group they would be cited for criminal trespassing and asked them to leave peacefully, saying they did not want to arrest them, but the protestors sat unmoved.
Casar said he and the protestors were told because of the capacity of the jail, the magistrate had come to them. The group was processed, received citations, then released. Read more about Council member Greg Casar, protesters arrested after sit-in at Governor's office
State troopers arrested about 20 protesters denouncing Senate Bill 4, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, who refused to leave a state office building after it closed at 5 p.m. Monday
Split into two groups, protesters, including immigrants, faith leaders and elected officials, locked arms and blocked both entrances of the State Insurance Building for several hours. They called on Gov. Greg Abbott to veto SB4, authored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock which would require local governments to cooperate with federal immigration officers and hold jail inmates, otherwise eligible for release, for possible federal detention and deportation.
The measure, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would require police to enforce federal immigration law by asking for the immigration status of people they detain. Opponents have called it the “show-me-your-papers” bill.
Organized by advocacy groups ICE Out of Austin, Austin Sanctuary Network, Grassroots Leadership and RAICES, the protesters attempted to keep people from entering the building by sitting just inside the doorways for about eight hours before it closed at 5 p.m.
At one teach-in, Barbara Hines, an immigration rights attorney, questioned the constitutionality of SB 4. It could allow a person to be placed in custody for 48 hours “just because of being asked about their immigration status at a traffic stop,” Hines said.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is among those who have spoken out against the bill.
Police chiefs of Austin, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio and the Texas Police Chiefs Association released a letter Friday predicting the bill will “lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and will foster the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.” Read more about Protesters blocking doors at Texas Gov. Abbott's office over 'sanctuary city' bill arrested
Officers arrested demonstrators who staged an all-day sit-in Monday to protest legislation banning so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions.
Dozens of people staged the sit-in at the Texas State Insurance Building, calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to reject Senate Bill 4, which would require cooperation with warrantless detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
After nearly nine hours, protesters were told to leave by Department of Public Safety officers. Those who did not were told they'd either be cited or booked on site by a judge. Roughly 20 people were either arrested or cited.
Abbott made the issue an emergency item for the legislative session and has publicly criticized Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's policy regarding the warrantless requests. Abbott also pulled $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from the county because of the policy, which honors requests only if someone has been charged with murder, human trafficking or aggravated sexual assault.
The sit-in was organized by the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Cristina Parker, a projects coordinator for the group, said early in the day, “We’ll do what we have to do to get our message across today. We’re not leaving until they hear it or they drag us out of here.” Read more about Demonstrators Arrested After Staging Sit-In At State Office to Protest 'Sanctuary' Bill
More than 20 protesters, including immigrants, students, a pair of elected officials and a Christian pastor, were arrested Monday evening after staging an all-day sit-in demonstration in the lobby of a state office building to call on Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the bill banning so-called sanctuary cities.
It’s an unlikely proposition, given that Abbott has listed signing Senate Bill 4, which would impose stiff penalties on cities and counties that decline in some way to assist federal immigration enforcement, as one of his top priorities for lawmakers this year. But the demonstrators said they wanted to send the message that the fight over the bill, which is nearing the legislative finish line after being approved by the House last week, is far from over.
“I accept that sitting in means risking arrest, but what I’m not willing to accept is the harm that Gov. Abbott and others want to inflict on immigrant communities,” Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, one of the demonstrators at the State Insurance Building just southeast of the Capitol, said before his arrest.
The building houses one of the governor’s staff offices, but Abbott was not in the building during the demonstration. His office did not respond to a request for comment about the protest, which was organized by Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that opposes private prisons and advocates for immigrants. Read more about All day sit-in protest of 'sanctuary cities' bill ends in arrests
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions today instructed federal prosecutors to put even more Justice Department resources into immigration prosecutions in their districts. A memo released today along with remarks by Attorney General Sessions in Nogales, Arizona, instructs prosecutors to prioritize immigration crimes including unauthorized entry and re-entry into the United States, harboring unauthorized immigrants, and impeding arrest of undocumented migrants. Read more about Immigration cases taking up half of all federal prosecutions somehow not enough for Sessions