raids

Apr 3, 2017
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The Austin American-Statesmen

ICE officials: 24 in Austin-Waco arrested in new immigration sweep

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say they arrested 153 people in Texas suspected of being in the country illegally — including 24 people picked up in the Austin-Waco area — as part of the second enforcement operation immigration officials have confirmed in the state this year.

The 12-day operation, which lasted from March 20 to March 31, differed in execution and results from another one performed in the area during the second week of February.

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ICE officials also said all of the people arrested in last month’s operation had previous criminal convictions, as opposed to the February raid. Federal documents obtained by the American-Statesman showed 28 of the 51 people arrested in February were deemed “non-criminals,” or people with no previous criminal convictions but suspected of living in the country illegally.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said in open court last month that ICE agents alerted him and another federal judge about the February raid, which they said was retribution for the new Travis County sheriff’s policy limiting the jail’s cooperation with immigration officials, the Statesman reported last month.

ICE officials declined Friday to comment further on the arrests, but in a news release, Daniel Bible, field office director for enforcement and removal operations in San Antonio, said: “ICE’s primary immigration enforcement efforts target convicted criminal aliens. … Consequently, our operations improve overall public safety by removing these criminals from our streets, and ultimately from our country.”

Local activists criticized the new operation.

“I think this continues a trend of ICE instilling fear in our community and … arresting more people in our community,” said Bob Libal, with the Austin-based immigration support network Grassroots Leadership. Read more about ICE officials: 24 in Austin-Waco arrested in new immigration sweep

Mar 28, 2017
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Alternet

Is Trump Waging a Stealth War of Retaliation Against Sanctuary Cities?

As Attorney General Jeff Sessionsdoubles down on President Donald Trump’s threats to crack down on sanctuary cities, evidence is mounting that the administration has already made them the target of retaliatory immigration raids as part of a backdoor effort to force compliance.

The term “sanctuary city” refers to thehundreds of jurisdictions across the United States that, to one degree or another, limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

CNN reported on March 25 that an unnamed “senior U.S. immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions” testified that federal authorities have descended upon sanctuary cities to pressure them to cooperate. Journalist Maria Santana wrote, “High-ranking ICE officials have discussed in internal meetings carrying out more raids on those locations [sanctuary cities]."

While Santana’s source did not reveal his or her identity, a federal judge proclaimed in open court on March 20 that he was told firsthand by federal agents that aggressive immigration raids in Austin this February were orchestrated in direct retaliation for sanctuary policies adopted by a local sheriff. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin’s assertion was first reported by Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman.

In early February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out aggressive sweeps throughout Austin, arresting at least 51 people, as part of coordinated raids across the country. “They were pulling people over on the side of the road, apprehending them at their homes, knocking on doors and profiling people,” Cristina Parker, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet.

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“This retaliation was a vengeful tactic by ICE for all the progress the immigrant community has gained in this county in the last four years,” said the Travis County campaign, ICE Out of Austin. “This is as much an 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.” Read more about Is Trump Waging a Stealth War of Retaliation Against Sanctuary Cities?

Mar 21, 2017
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Downtown Austin patch

Federal Judge Confirms Heightened Austin ICE Action Is Payback For Softened Immigration Policy

The recent sweeps for undocumented immigrants in Austin by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were done in retaliation for the new sheriff's policy ending a close partnership with the federal agency over a preference in focusing on high-level felons for deportation, according to a published report.

As first reported by the Austin American-Statesman Monday, federal agents privately alerted two magistrate judges in late January they would target Austin with heightened a heightened immigration crackdown.

The reason: A more nuanced policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez that doesn't cooperate with ICE in honoring so-called "detainers," 48-hour holds placed on any arrested person suspected of being undocumented to allow an agent plenty of time to arrive (usually from San Antonio) to fetch the detained person and follow up on deportation.

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“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town, that it was going to be a specific operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin said, as quoted by the Statesman.

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What followed less than three months later was unprecedented in Austin, with people being pulled over on roadways or visited at homes and workplaces as ICE agents descended on Austin to root out undocumented immigrants beginning in early February. ICE agents' efforts undoubtedly were fueled by Hernandez's more softened approach but buoyed by Donald Trump and Greg Abbott, both eager proponents of wholesale deportations from their presidential and governor's perches, respectively. 

Immediately, suspicions emerged that the crackdown never before seen (the undocumented before detected largely during times of arrest, not personal visits by ICE agents) was sort of payback against Hernandez. The revelation made in court on Monday seems to support those suspicions.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, reacted angrily to the revelations, calling out past missives by ICE positing enforcement action as routine to have been outright lies.

“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,” Libal said. “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.” Read more about Federal Judge Confirms Heightened Austin ICE Action Is Payback For Softened Immigration Policy

Mar 23, 2017
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The Daily Texan

Federal judge says Austin ICE raids in response to sanctuary policy

A federal judge revealed Monday that federal agents told him last month’s immigration enforcement raids in Austin were in response to a policy protecting undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents notified him and another judge about a specific operation during a meeting in late January. The mid-Feburary raids occurred after the Travis County Sheriff’s Office stopped allowing ICE agents to detain inmates without warrants space on Feb. 1.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy, that this was going to happen,” Austin said in open court.

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A federal judge revealed Monday that federal agents told him last month’s immigration enforcement raids in Austin were in response to a policy protecting undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents notified him and another judge about a specific operation during a meeting in late January. The mid-Feburary raids occurred after the Travis County Sheriff’s Office stopped allowing ICE agents to detain inmates without warrants space on Feb. 1.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy, that this was going to happen,” Austin said in open court.

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Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County District Attorney, met with ICE regional field office director Dan Bible in February, who told her ICE was not targeting Austin, according to the Statesman.

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Bob Libal, director of immigrants rights advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, said ICE cannot be trusted given Monday’s announcement.

“It’s completely outrageous and appalling that ICE is choosing to terrorize the immigrant community in retaliation for a perfectly legal policy,” Libal said. “They are lying to local officials and to the press about what their activities are.” Read more about Federal judge says Austin ICE raids in response to sanctuary policy

Mar 10, 2017
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Austin Chronicle

Undocumented, Unafraid

On Feb. 10, her community experienced the first tangible signs of that danger. As part of a sweep through 12 states, ICE detained dozens in the Austin region and more than 680 immigrants nationwide. While "Operation Cross Check" ostensibly targeted "public safety threats," reports later showed that most of those arrested locally did not have criminal records, sparking questions of political retaliation. The immigrant community, an already vulnerable population, has since been forced to reckon with deep anxiety, fear, and feelings of destabilization. Like many undocumented Austinites today, Alvarado's parents are "laying low," she said, forgoing the 40-minute drive to visit their daughter in San Marcos, and updating her on nearly every trip out of the house they make.

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But while some immigrants back into the shadows for self-preservation, others have felt empowered to take to the streets and speak up. The raids ignited daily protests at the intersection of Rund­berg and North Lam­ar, and several rallies and demonstrations in the ensuing weeks. Over the past month, and now into an uncertain future, the community navigates a delicate balance between protecting themselves and their families while letting the public know they deserve to call Austin home.

"Trump, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!" ("Trump, listen! We are in the fight!") chanted roughly 200 immigrants and allies over the sounds of Tejano accordion music and drumbeats outside the J.J. Pickle Federal Building on a clear day in mid-February. Toting handmade signs and the Mexico and U.S. flags, activists – surrounded by Austin Police and Department of Homeland Secur­ity officials – joined the nationwide Day Without Immigrants strike in peaceful protest to assert their self-worth, remind the city of their many contributions, and condemn the recent raids.

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Early rumblings of ICE raids in the first days of February sent local nonprofit and legal groups into an organizing frenzy ("ICE Raid in Austin?" Feb. 2). And the strategizing paid off: Groups, including the Texas Here to Stay coalition, were able to respond to the enforcement action. A rapid text alert system for attorneys led to a pop-up legal clinic at the Grassroots Leadership offices on Cesar Chavez. Around 80 people showed up, including 10 family members directly affected by the arrests. "I think we were the first city in Texas to have something set up that had a rapid response and alert system," said Faye Kolly, a local immigration attorney and member of the American Immi­gra­tion Lawyers Association. "As a city, we have a lot to be proud of."

Kolly described the mood in the makeshift legal clinic as one of mass confusion and panic. "Many were visibly frightened and shaken, there was a lot of uncertainty and fear," she said. While conducting consultations, Kolly and other attorneys began to notice that while ICE claimed they were only going after those with serious and dangerous criminal records, some of the cases clearly didn't match the call. "ICE was waiting for people to leave their homes in the morning so they could pick them up from work," said Kolly. "We saw a lot of people being swept up who were not supposed to be targeted. Of course, what we know now is that everyone is a target."

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Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer with Grassroots Leadership, which leads the ICE out of Austin movement, said the next step is finding safe haven for those facing the threat of deportation; in effect creating an underground network of businesses, clinics, restaurants, churches, and other places that can harbor immigrants in the event of upcoming massive raids – or at least banish ICE from their private property.

"It doesn't seem like the local government can protect us from the federal administration, so we've got to find a way to protect ourselves," he said. "We want people to be actively on the lookout and make sure ICE doesn't feel comfortable in parking lots and businesses. If ICE is going to do a stakeout on private property, we want it to be as inconvenient as possible." Count St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (part of the interfaith Austin Sanctuary Network) and Black Star Co-op as havens. AISD also recently passed a resolution reaffirming that the district is a safe space for all students, regardless of immigration status.

Of course, under the Texas Legislature's plan to pass a so-called "sanctuary cities" bill this session, safe shelter is equally under threat ("Matters More Than the Law," Feb. 10). Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Charles Per­ry, R-Lubbock, would punish local governments and universities that don't comply with ICE detainer requests to hand over immigrants. Violating the potential law could mean a loss of state grant funds. Labeled as one of Gov. Greg Abbott's "emergency" priorities, SB 4 sped through the full Senate and now heads to the House, despite resounding testimony in opposition.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, and 10 co-authors, including Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Aus­tin, have proposed a counter bill (SB 997) that would establish "safe zones" for immigrants at hospitals, public schools, courthouses, and places of worship, where local and state police would be prohibited from enforcing federal immigration laws. "These have always been in our society: institutions where it should be safe and one can trust that institution," Garcia said at a Feb­ruary legislative press conference. "If we break that, it breaks our democracy." Read more about Undocumented, Unafraid

Mar 3, 2017
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The Austin American Statesman

ICE agents in Travis County courthouses looking for suspects

Juan Coronilla-Guerrero was one of dozens of unauthorized immigrants released from the local jail after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez implemented a new policy to not honor many ICE detainers.

Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife, in a news release from the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, confirmed that Coronilla-Guerrero was one of more than 30 immigrants released in the days following Hernandez’s implementation of a policy that greatly limited cooperation with ICE requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants.

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ICE agents in Austin on Friday detained an immigrant suspected of being in the country illegally at the Travis County courthouse, in what appears to be a new tactic by immigration officials.

Defense attorney Daniel Betts confirmed to the American-Statesman that his client, Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, was detained at the courthouse, where was scheduled to appear for two misdemeanor charges, assault-family violence and possession of marijuana.

Betts said his client was arrested in an elevator at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center.

The Travis County sheriff’s office confirmed that ICE agents were at the courthouse serving a warrant.

Attorney George Lobb, who saw the arrest, said the paperwork he saw was not a warrant or other court order.

“It struck me as extraordinary,” said Betts, who added that his client was in court expressly to resolve the misdemeanor charges so we would not run into problems with immigration.

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The report of federal agents looking for suspects at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center and the Heman Sweatt Travis County Courthouse comes three weeks after an ICE enforcement operation centered on Austin and four other metro areas across the US that led to the arrests of 683 people.

In the past, deportation proceedings in Travis County have largely been prompted by an arrest that led to immigration checks. But during the four-day enforcement operation, ICE officials were out in the community, pulling people over and taking them in.

The mid-February ICE raids fueled speculation that Austin was being singled out because of recent controversy over newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy to deny most of the agency’s requests to delay the release of inmates at the Travis County jail for immigration checks. Read more about ICE agents in Travis County courthouses looking for suspects

Mar 1, 2017
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The Austin American Statesmen

Three weeks after ICE raids, Austin immigrant community still panicked

When news of the ICE raids spread throughout Austin, area nonprofits organized, mobilized and improvised as fear ran through the city’s immigrant community.

Carmen Zuvieta, a volunteer with the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, describes the days during Operation Crosscheck as days of madness. The criminal justice and immigration reform group has operated the ICE Out of Austin campaign for years.

Zuvieta became a leader in the campaign after her husband was deported about four years ago, leaving her to raise her two children on her own. She’s spoken everywhere from City Hall to the University of Texas about the campaign, but since the ICE arrests of 51 people in the ICE raids, she has been volunteering around the clock.

“Although we expected there to be ICE raids, to be honest, I never thought it’d happen with this magnitude,” Zuvieta said.

Three weeks after the enforcement operation, Zuvieta’s cell phone hasn’t stopped ringing. One day she’s buying diapers for families who are here illegally and afraid to leave their homes and the next she’s consoling mothers whose deported children are going back to countries where their lives are in danger.

There hasn’t been a typical day for Zuvieta since the ICE raids. Her day begins at 6 a.m. and immediately checks her phone and social media to check on families and make sure no one else has been arrested. She’s constantly answering calls and texts from distressed families while juggling her own full-time housekeeping job and family. Zuvieta dashes from community meetings to rallies to the homes of families who need a power of attorney in case they get deported and need to leave their children behind with someone.

“My cell phone is working at 100 and my body at zero,” she said. But she converts the pain of having her family separated, she said, into energy to defend other families in fear.

“I see a future that’s very dificult for many of these families,” Zuvieta said. “But I think the pain of their children will transform into desire to make changes in this country.” Read more about Three weeks after ICE raids, Austin immigrant community still panicked

Feb 23, 2017
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WALB News10

Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines

Around the country, President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. have spread fear and anxiety and led many people to brace for arrest and to change up their daily routines in hopes of not getting caught.

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An undocumented Guatemalan migrant mother and her son have called an Austin, Texas, church home for more than a year. Hilda Ramirez says they were fleeing the danger of their country and were caught by immigration authorities as they illegally crossed the border at Texas in 2014. After they were released from a holding facility, a pastor allowed them to live on church grounds.

The unease among immigrants has been building but intensified in recent weeks with ever-clearer signs that the Trump administration would jettison the Obama-era policy of focusing mostly on deporting those who had committed serious crimes.

The administration announced Tuesday that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or other minor offenses, or those who simply crossed the border illegally.

Some husbands and wives fear spouses who lack legal papers could be taken away. And many worry that parents will be separated from their U.S.-born children.

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An organization in Austin, Texas, that runs a deportation hotline said it normally would receive one or two calls every few days. After recent immigration raids, the phone rang off the hook.

"We got over 1,000 phone calls in three days about the raids," said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership. "And certainly a lot of those were people who wanted information about the raids saying, 'I'm scared, I'm worried, what can I do?'... A lot of them were people who were impacted by the raids who saw a friend or family be taken." Read more about Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines

Feb 22, 2017
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The Detroit News

Deportation fears adjust immigrants' daily routines

Around the country, President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. have spread fear and anxiety and led many people to brace for arrest and to change up their daily routines in hopes of not getting caught.

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The unease among immigrants has been building for months but intensified in recent weeks with ever-clearer signs that the Trump administration would jettison the Obama-era policy of focusing mostly on deporting those who had committed serious crimes.

The administration announced Tuesday that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or other minor offenses, or those who simply crossed the border illegally.

Some husbands and wives fear spouses who lack legal papers could be taken away. And many worry that parents will be separated from their U.S.-born children.

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An organization in Austin, Texas, that runs a deportation hotline said it normally would receive one or two calls every few days. After recent immigration raids, the phone rang off the hook.

“We got over 1,000 phone calls in three days about the raids,” said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership. “And certainly a lot of those were people who wanted information about the raids saying, ‘I’m scared, I’m worried, what can I do?’… A lot of them were people who were impacted by the raids who saw a friend or family be taken.” Read more about Deportation fears adjust immigrants' daily routines

Feb 21, 2017
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Austin American-Statesman

Waves of deportations predicted as Trump changes immigration orders

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released a set of documents translating President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and border security into policy, bringing a major shift in the way the agency enforces the nation’s immigration laws.

Under the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes were the priority for removal. Now, immigration agents, customs officers and Border Patrol agents have been directed to remove anyone convicted of any criminal offense.

That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”

Austin-area immigration supporters call Trump’s policy too wide-ranging, saying it will lead the government to deport more immigrants who have committed minor offenses — or are merely suspected of a crime.

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The change in enforcement priorities will require a considerable increase in resources. With an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, the government has long had to set narrower priorities, given the constraints on staffing and money.

In the so-called guidance documents released Tuesday, the department is directed to begin the process of hiring 10,000 new immigration and customs agents, expanding the number of detention facilities and creating an office within Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help families of those killed by undocumented immigrants. Trump had some of those relatives address his rallies in the campaign, and several were present when he signed an executive order on immigration last month at the Department of Homeland Security.

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But the officials also made clear that the department intended to aggressively follow Trump’s promise that immigration laws be enforced to the maximum extent possible, marking a significant departure from the procedures in place under President Barack Obama.

That promise has generated fear and anger in the immigrant community, and advocates for immigrants have warned that the new approach is a threat to many undocumented immigrants who had previously been in little danger of being deported.

Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership in Austin, said the changes are scary for the immigrant population.

“Expanding the definition of criminal now puts everyone and anyone at risk for deportation,” he said. Read more about Waves of deportations predicted as Trump changes immigration orders

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