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

March 21, 2017

A report released on the same day shows Travis County is leading the way resisting ICE, with the most declined detainers in the U.S.

(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.  The revelation was first published in the Austin American-Statesman on Monday afternoon.  ICE had previously stated that its operations were “routine” to media and local officials.

“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,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.  “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.”

A report released by the Trump administration on Monday also showed that Sheriff Hernandez is a leader nationally in upholding the will of her constituents and protecting the 4th amendment.  More immigration detainers were declined in Travis County than any other county in the country, a result of the implementation of the Sheriff’s policy to reject warrantless detainers on February 1st.

The ICE Out of Austin campaign, whose members are immigrants in Travis County who campaigned for years to end collaboration with ICE at the jail, released this statement in response to Judge Austin’s revelation:

“This retaliation was a vengeful tactic by ICE for all the progress the immigrant community has gained in this county in the last 4 years. This is as much as 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."

The Trump administration’s report was intended to instill fear and anti-immigrant bias by listing crimes of which immigrants were accused.  However, the list was not accurate, according to a report from the Statesman, and wrongly listed 14 rejected detainers at another jail facility.  Former Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton had released lists like these in the past, but his successor, Sheriff Hernandez, was elected on a mandate to reform the Sheriff’s office’s relationship with ICE.

In October, a federal district court in the Northern District of Illinois became the latest to rule that the practice of placing immigration detainers on individuals in local law enforcement custody exceeds the federal government’s warrantless arrest authorities.  Immigration detainers are not based on probable cause and are only requests to local law enforcement from ICE to hold migrants in local custody beyond the disposition of their criminal cases.

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.


Cristina Parker, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111