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
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. --Exodus 22:21
On Monday, April 7, I was privileged to testify in front of the Texas state Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee regarding border security, sanctuary cities and other immigration issues. Cristina Parker and Eleana Diaz, both of Grassroots Leadership, and Alejandro Caceres of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition also offered testimony. Eleana speaks candidly about her family's experience here.
I spoke to the committee as a Presbyterian missionary serving in the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. From my work, I've learned that the immigration system in our nation, as well as the for-profit prison industry, is programmed to prey on people who have done nothing but cross a line. Crossing that line is not a crime, but is a civil matter. Immigrants are not guaranteed legal counsel, and if "apprehended," can languish for months and years in immigration detenton centers owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Community Education Centers (CEC), and other for-profit prison corporations. That doesn't sound like sanctuary to me!Read more about Testify: the Texas Homeland Security Subcommittee and God's Call for Us
Monday morning, as I walked to the Capitol to join Grassroots Leadership’s Cristina Parker, Lauren Voyles, and several other immigrant rights advocates from the community in a senate hearing on sanctuary cities, I received the following text message: “Have you testified in one of these before? If not, it could be a good opportunity. They are talking about border issues, so it may be a good thing for you to speak about”
Cue panic attack. I had never testified before and the last senate hearing I had attended was opened with testimony from an eloquent and well-prepared professor, the opposite of what I felt that morning.
Outside of the room holding the hearing Cristina quickly explained the process and I hastily filled out a form so that I could be put on the docket to testify. She handed me a piece of paper to scribble out a quick script for myself and after staring at it for a few seconds I realized I actually did have a lot to say and I wanted it to be heard.Read more about My Unplanned Senate Testimony: How Local Immigration Enforcement Policies Hurt Communities, Including My Family
On Thursday, April 10, President Barack Obama will attend a meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in Austin, Texas, along with three former U.S. Presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the event's organizers said on Monday. The Civil Rights Summit, slated from Tuesday to Thursday, is organized by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
During the week-long South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, 19 people will be deported from Austin.
Travis County, and especially Austin, often holds itself out to be a progressive and welcoming community tucked into an otherwise very conservative state. We even take in hundreds of thousands of y’all during SXSW!Read more about 19 immigrants will disappear from Austin during SXSW
Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton says it all comes down to one word: “shall.”
Hamilton has been tweeting in response to our coverage of a letter from ICE Acting Director Daniel H. Ragsdale in which Ragsdale clarifies that immigration detainers are “are not mandatory as a matter of law.”
Hamilton has been a vocal supporter of complying with ICE detainer requests. He has called detainers “mandatory” and “the law.” After reading about the letter from Ragsdale, the Sheriff changed his tune... but only slightly.Read more about Travis County Sheriff Evolves Position on Immigration Detainers, Is Still Wrong
This settles it.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Daniel H. Ragsdale told members of Congress in a letter last month that “...while immigration detainers are an important part of ICE's efforts..., they are not mandatory as a matter of law."Read more about ICE Director admits: “Immigration detainers... are not mandatory as a matter of law.”
On February 22, 2014, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition and supporters hosted a candidates forum at Faith Presbyterian Church. More than 200 people attended, comprised of members of the immigrant community, advocates, people of faith and other community members. Brigid Shea, Richard Jung, and Garry Brown, all of whom are vying for the Precinct 2 County Commission seat, were in attendance. Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt, both of whom are running for Travis Count Judge, also attended. Each candidate addressed the community's concerns and offered methods by which they, if elected, would ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers are no longer honored in Travis County.Read more about County Commission, Judge Candidates Promise to end Secure Communities
People have been saying for years that there is a deportation crisis in Travis County, Texas, fueled by the federal S-Comm (Secure Communities) program in the jail.
New data released Tuesday shows just how bad things have gotten. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, over the last two years ICE and Sheriff Greg Hamilton have been particularly busy rounding up Austin-area residents.
From 2013-2014, ICE placed a total of 5,507 “holds” on individuals in Travis County Jail. A hold is a request from the federal government that the jail “hold” someone for two extra days so that ICE can come investigate. The cause for ICE’s investigation can be very flimsy. For example, if they don’t have the fingerprints on record and the individual just happens to have a Hispanic last name. It’s no small wonder they have issued thousands of holds here.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Yes, Austin. You have a deportation crisis.
Contact: Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487, blibal@
For Immediate Release: August 9th, 2011
Travis County Groups Deliver Letter Opposing Controversial Immigration Enforcement Program
Coalition Calls for Halt to Secure Communities Program at Dallas Task Force Hearings
Austin, Texas - A coalition of 18 Travis County civil and human rights groups today will deliver a letter to a Department of Homeland Security Task Force meeting calling for the termination of the controversial immigration enforcement program "Secure Communities." A PDF of the letter is available here. Read more about Texas Groups Deliver Letter Opposing "Secure Communities" Immigration Enforcement Program to DHS Task Force