Austin immigrants demand Chief Art Acevedo add protections to police manual, oppose private detention centers

September 8, 2016

Immigrants ask for change in police manual to prohibit asking about immigration status and for Chief Acevedo to listen to the immigrants that have been in detention in light of his position on Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council.

WHAT: Protest at Austin Police Station asking for Chief Acevedo to meet with formerly detained immigrants and change the police manual

WHEN:   Thursday, September 8th, 6:30 pm

WHERE: Austin Police station,  715 E. 8th St., Austin, Texas

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, ICE Out of Austin, an immigrant-led group, is asking that the Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo make changes to the police manual preventing his officers from asking people about their immigration status. Immigrant community members who have had loved ones in detention or have been in detention themselves will also ask for Chief Acevedo, who has been recently named to an advisory group for the Department of Homeland Security to review private detention center contracts, to meet with impacted people to hear firsthand what the conditions in private immigrant detention centers are like.

The City of Austin has been on the forefront of the conversation of local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) collaboration for the last two years since the #19toomany campaign brought to light the large number of deportations originating from Austin and Travis county.  

Current Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, who is not running for reelection, has been a stout defender of a policy allowing ICE to put detainers on individuals in Travis County Jail.  More than 100 Travis County based attorneys signed a letter warning that the county could face lawsuits for allowing ICE to issue immigration detainers without a warrant. Following a multi-year campaign by immigrants and their allies, Hamilton’s potential successors have said they are willing to stop some if not all ICE access to the jail when they take over the sheriff position, potentially making Austin the first sanctuary city in the State of Texas.  

Immigrant organizers are now asking for the police chief to make changes to the police manual to prohibit officers from asking about immigration status during an interaction with a community member. The current manual says that officers cannot arrest an immigrant for their immigration status, but does not prohibit officers from asking people about their status on first contact, a policy that results in deep distrust of law enforcement in the community.

“We want the immigrant community to be sure that they will not be asked about their immigration status after they get stopped by the police. Leaving this type of question at the discretion of police officers puts immigrants in danger of their rights being abused,” says Alejandro Caceres, Immigration Organizer with Grassroots Leadership and ICE out of Austin.

Chief Acevedo has more than once stated that he supports immigrant community members and that his department does not intend to be immigration enforcers.  Acevedo wrote an op-ed stating his opposition to the failed Secure Communities program after meeting with immigrant community members.

It is with this knowledge that the ICE out of Austin and Grassroots leadership is now asking for Chief Acevedo to also be a strong advocate against private prisons in his new appointed seat in the advisory board for the Department of Homeland Security.

“We need him to be an ally with actions and not just words right now,” says Carmen Zuvieta, an immigrant organizer with ICE Out of Austin. “Right now our community is being picked up because of local policies and being shipped to private detention centers where our folks are being abused.  We need Chief Acevedo to not only change the manual to make sure people do not get picked up but we need him to also demand that DHS ends it’s contracts with private prison companies that abuse our family members.“

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.

Contact: 

For immediate release: September 8, 2016

Contact: Alejandro Caceres acaceres@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111