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
In a dialogue on October 15th with Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition Executive Director Alejandro Caceres, and Texas Civil Rights Project Staff Attorney Amelia Fischer, Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton again defended his office’s participation in a federal program that helps deport immigrants arrested in Travis County. Read more about Despite criticism, Travis County sheriff stands by deportation program
On Thursday, June 26, Austin city council members unanimously passed a resolution to oppose Travis County's participation in Secure Communities. Secure Communities, or S-Comm, is a federal program through which immigrants can be detained in local jails like the Travis County Jail until Immigration and Customs Encorcement (ICE) can take them into custody. The resolution is sponsored by council members Laura Morrison, Mike Martinez and mayor pro-tem Sheryl Cole. No one offered opposing remarks on this resolution.
A disappointing decision by the Obama administration was announced Friday morning in response to a recent influx of Central American migrants crossing through the Southwest border, many of them children. According to officials, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will seek to detain more of these individuals and accelerate their cases in immigration courts to speed up their deportations. Read more about Obama administration offers poor response to a humanitarian crisis
Immigrant advocates rejoiced last week as a wave of counties said they would no longer comply with ICE holds (also called detainers) issued under the "Secure Communities" (S-Comm) program. Sheriffs in 31 counties in Oregon, 10 in Colorado and at least 4 in Washington announced the policy shift, citing concerns that ICE holds violate Constitutional rights and expose local governments to legal liability.
The Washington Post reported on April 29 that this development comes after recent court decisions in Oregon and Pennsylvania that found ICE holds are requests, not commands, and that local law enforcement is not required to honor them. Consequently, sheriffs and counties could be liable for any constitutional violations resulting from local law enforcement holding a person for ICE.
Immigrant advocates have long argued that detainers issued under the S-Comm program from ICE are merely requests, and that honoring ICE detainers are violations of due process.
Grassroots Leadership has been part of an on-going campaign to stop compliance with S-Comm and ICE holds in Travis County, Texas. The question on the minds of immigrants and advocates in Texas is: When will local governments in the Lone Star State join this quickly growing list?
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