Feb 13, 2017
Free Speech Radio News

Immigrant rights advocates piece together details on recent sweeps with little official information

Immigration police have arrested at least 600 people in raids in about a dozen states, including in so-called sanctuary cities, during the past week, in what officials call ‘routine enforcement actions.’ The full scope of the sweeps is unclear, and advocates for undocumented immigrants say they may be much broader than currently known. But following President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, many fear the dragnet is now much more widely cast. 


Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the authority behind the detentions, has repeatedly stated that the arrests are routine, targeted enforcement, but organizations with close ties to immigrant communities say this is clearly not the case.

Cristina Parker is immigration projects coordinator with Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas – a city where dozens of undocumented people have been picked up in recent days.

“I think we know that what happened over this past weekend and the end of last week here in Austin was not routine at all. One of the ways we can really gauge that is the fact that we run a deportation crisis hotline here – we’ll usually hear between one or two calls every one or two days, something like that, and we had hundreds of calls in the past few days,” Parker told FSRN in a telephone interview. “Now, a lot of those were just people calling because they were worried and wanted to know their rights and such information, but many, many of them – at least a dozen – were folks who were calling because they had had a family member picked up. When we combine that with the numbers we hear from the Mexican consulate, that’s how we know it was about 60 to 70 people who were picked up.”

News of the coordinated arrests spread quickly across social media platforms. Parker says her organization began receiving reports early on, but has been cautious to vet the information to avoid panic: “We’ve received tons and tons of reports about, you know, ‘I see this’ or ‘I see that happening.’ We usually ask folks when they’re reporting that to us to snap a picture and send that to us. The reason we do that is because we’ve had a lot of pranks; unfortunately, our information went out on some white supremacist websites and so they were definitely sending some false leads to us. So we ask people to snap a picture, and that’s actually how we were able to really early on confirm this.”


In his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on internal enforcement of immigration laws. He billed it as a get tough strategy to go after quote ‘criminal aliens’. However, the order isn’t specific about what kind of crime constitutes a priority for deportation and those targeted for removal don’t have to be convicted – only charged.

Further, the order calls for officials to detain anyone suspected of violating any law, including Federal immigration law – which could make anyone who has crossed the border without authorization subject to arrest. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
The Daily Texan

Five undocumented immigrants detained in Austin according to advocacy group

 An immigration rights organization said five undocumented immigrants in Austin were detained by federal immigration enforcement Thursday, according to the Texas Observer.

“I’ve never heard of five people getting picked up in one day,” Grassroots Leadership organizer Alejandro Caceres told the Observer.

Caceres said the organization received reports of the detainments in East and North Austin through its hotline. ICE agents could not be reached for comment.

Reyna Alvarado said Immigration and Customs Law Enforcement agents detained her husband, Francisco Alvarado, on Riverside Drive on his way to landscaping work around 8:30 a.m. Reyna Alvarado said an unmarked car pulled over her husband and ICE agents got out of it to detain him.

“I had to go to school and tell my daughter that they’ve taken her father away,” Caceres said translating for Reyna Alvarado in a video from the Observer.

Reyna Alvarado and members of ICE Out of Austin, an advocacy group against ICE agents detaining locally jailed undocumented immigrants, protested the arrest outside the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, according to the Statesman.

Reyna Alvarado said their family fled Honduras 10 years ago after a gang, called the “Maras,” killed several of their family members. Reyna Alvarado said her children are billingual and are afforded the education she never had.

“What am I supposed to do now?” Caceres translated. “They’ve taken my husband away. Who’s going to take the suffering away?”

On Feb. 1, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said her office would not comply with ICE agents who ask to detain undocumented immigrants held in local jails without warrants. Detainers make requests for investigations if they suspect someone is undocumented, and Hernandez said the requests only ask but do not require local law enforcement to honor them.

Hernandez has said her deputies cannot act as federal immigration law enforcement, and should be expected to handle only local matters. Reyna Alvarado said she fears getting caught off guard by ICE then getting detained as a result.

“I feel that I’ve been corralled,” Caceres translated. “I feel that I can’t watch a car stop next to me because I think that it’s an immigration agent.”

Caceres said he expects future raids in the area.

“This might just be the beginning,” Caceres told the Observer. “Immigration [agents] have stepped up their tactics and we need to think about how we keep our friends and families protected.” [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
Al Jazeera

Protests over detention of immigrants across US

Protests have erupted across the US after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency swept across several US cities, detaining undocumented migrants.

Early Friday's raids came quickly after President Donald Trump signed three executive orders on Thursday reportedly aimed at crime reduction.

Los Angeles, Austin and Phoenix have all seen demonstrations.


In Austin, at least five undocumented residents have been detained.

Cristina Parker, the immigration programmes director at Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which organises against deportations and mass incarceration, informed Al Jazeera there may be more.

"Everyone is scrambling to get information. There are unconfirmed reports of detentions across the city. Those who are most affected by these actions are the hardest to get in contact with, currently," Parker said.

Austin has been the epicentre of the national battle over so-called sanctuary cities, an unofficial designation of cities that generally offer safety to undocumented migrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

According to local reports, the ICE detained each of the five in separate, targeted raids. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017

Have Trump’s Mass Deportations Begun? Immigration Arrests Reported Around the Country

Multiple accounts of immigration arrests have been reported in California, North Carolina, and Texas, among other states, according to numerous sources. Advocates working to confirm the identities of those detained say the suspected raids mark the beginning of President Trump’s mass deportation efforts.


As news of suspected raids travels on social media from around the country, attorneys and advocates are left wondering if such arrests will be the “new normal” under the Trump administration. In a press release, Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigration advocacy organization, said that “Trump’s deportation force” has hit Austin, with multiple undocumented immigrants targeted in an ICE raid. Much is still unknown about the populations taken into ICE custody, but there are reports in Spanish media outlets that at least some of the immigrants targeted did not have criminal records.

Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration programs director, told Rewire in an email that her organization is working to confirm the identities of those detained in Austin. She suspects ICE sought out immigrants with prior orders of removal during the mass arrests, a practice that was common under President Obama. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
KUT 90.5

After ICE Actions, Advocates Mobilize in Support of Austin-Area Immigrants

Immigration advocates are mobilizing following reports of a number of arrests by Immigration and Customs enforcement agents in Austin over the past 24 hours. 

“These ICE actions are politically motivated and morally bankrupt attempts to punish our community for standing up for our collective civil rights,” City Council Member Greg Casar said at a press conference with Delia Garza outside Little Walnut Creek Branch Library. “They are attempts to silence us, and these are attempts to strike fear into our hearts. But we will not be silenced.”

Casar was referring, in part, to a policy change at the Travis County Jail, which will no longer honor detainer requests from ICE as of Feb. 1.


A hotline had been set up for community remembers to report ICE action in Austin. Grassroots Leadership, a national immigration advocacy group based in Texas, said it is rallying to let people affected by the actions know that "they will not be alone.” [node:read-more:link]

May 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton attends Austin fundraiser

A handful of immigrant rights advocates in Austin showed up outside the hotel hoping to press Clinton on detention of undocumented family members.

"She has already said that if she becomes president she would end family detention," said Bethany Carson with Grassroots Leadership. "But we are asking her to act sooner, to call on President Obama to end family detention while he is still president because these families cannot wait." [node:read-more:link]

May 20, 2016
Texas Public Radio

Clinton Ignores Immigration Group's Request For Meeting During Austin Visit

While Clinton was here for a private meeting with Austin Democratic campaign donors, that didn’t stop members of the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership from trying to have a sit down with Clinton to discuss her promises to close the Karnes City and Dilley family immigration detention centers.  Though not allowed inside, members of the group snuck in and began singing inside the hotel lobby.

Cristina Parker is the immigration program director at Grassroots Leadership.

“This is a state where family detention is a really huge issue, we have massive family detention centers that hold Central American women and children.  Hillary Clinton said she is against this policy, but we are asking her to use her influence as the powerful person that she is to push the Obama administration to end this now.  She said she’ll end it in November, but these women can’t wait, they are suffering.  I don’t think she can ignore this issue in our state and just raise money and leave," Parker explained. [node:read-more:link]

Apr 29, 2016
The Austin Chronicle

"Every Human Being Is Legal"

When Immigration and Customs Enforce­ment (ICE) announced at the beginning of this year that it would be intensifying its efforts to deport certain undocumented immigrants, Hilda Ramirez decided it was time to seek sanctuary.


Ramirez, who fled Guatemala in fear of her life, has been denied asylum. Her appeal of the initial denial was also rejected. Yet there is still hope that Ivan, who is now 10, will be granted asylum on appeal, explained Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership and coordinator of the ICE Out of Austin campaign. Additionally, Ramirez's attorney plans to file for a stay of removal, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from carrying out an order of deportation. Through "prosecutorial discretion," ICE has the authority to suspend deportation cases that are not priorities, such as immigrants who do not pose threats to national security, border security, and public safety. "We want Immigration to use the power they have to withhold Hilda's deportation because, clearly, she is not a priority," said Caceres. [node:read-more:link]

Mar 8, 2016
Texas Observer

Raid Aid

Drawing about 40 people on a Saturday, the “Know Your Rights” meeting featured attorneys, who provided an overview of the federal immigration raids, and advocates, who shared instructions on what to do should a law enforcement officer show up unannounced. There’s no requirement to respond or let officials inside without a signed warrant, they said.

“Your name and your birthday — that’s all the information you have to give,” Alejandro Caceres, an immigration rights advocate with the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the audience. Caceres, who donned an ICE T-shirt and paper badge to play an officer in an educational skit, assured meeting attendees that if they are inside their homes, they do not have to answer specific questions about immigration status. “You have the right not to say anything. You have the right to an attorney.” [node:read-more:link]

Jan 31, 2016
Austin American-Statesman

Rights advocates teach immigrants how to respond to threat of raids

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar and several immigrant rights groups gathered Saturday in North Austin to teach immigrants how to respond if they are targeted in federal raids.


“We believe that knowledge is power and we all have constitutional rights regardless of immigration status,” said Elissa Steglich, a UT immigration law professor.

Federal raids in January, she said, were part of an effort to deport thousands of women and children who crossed the border in the summer of 2014 to escape violence in Central American countries. Under those deportation orders, about 6,000 people in Texas are targeted, and nearly 80 percent of those will not have access to an immigration lawyer, she said.

“We see that the people who fall victim to these raids are those who do not know their rights or have the funds to pay for a lawyer,” Steglich told the crowd.

To address that, the training event played out scenarios involving an immigration official at an immigrant’s door. Organizers told the crowd that unless the official had a signed judge’s order, they don’t need to open the door. They also advised participants to withhold from speaking to the official until they are able to acquire a lawyer.

However, event organizers emphasized that people should never lie to an immigration official. They said immigrants could provide their name and date of birth if asked to identify themselves. But if asked to provide a Social Security number, ID card or other documents, they could defer to their lawyers, organizers said.

“You can also ask the official if you are under arrest,” said Alejandro Caceres of Grassroots Leadership. “If they say you are not, then you can simply walk away and avoid any other contact with them.” [node:read-more:link]


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