Travis County Sheriff

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 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

Nov 9, 2016
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KXAN

Immigration advocates torn between Travis Co. sheriff, Trump wins

In the aftermath of local and federal elections Tuesday, area immigration advocates are expressing their concern about the future of the issue in Travis County.

“As the night went forward, we realized this sort of sickening feeling, of like, ‘Oh no, I think that Donald Trump is going to win this,’” explained Alejandro Caceres, an Immigration Organizer for Grassroots Leadership in Austin. “There’s a sudden fear of what happens to me tomorrow.”

Among his fears, Caceres says President-elect Donald Trump’s goals for his first day working in the Oval Office are concerning. According to NBC, Trump said he would:

  • Cancel funding to “sanctuary cities”
  • Remove illegal immigrants and cancel visas to countries that refuse to take them back, and
  • Suspend immigration from “terror-prone” regions of the world.

“The president is coming after us,” said Caceres. “There’s people in the United States who actually feel targeted by the president of the United States… for either deportation, for stripping you of your rights, it is very terrifying.”

Caceres said members of immigrant community groups are fearful of a return to the past. “We’ve gained so many victories in the eight years that Obama has been here, and now we’re in threat of going back. Now we’re in threat of having a program like Secure Communities over again.”

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Caceres said the relief he felt after learning Democrat Sally Hernandez had won the election for Travis County Sheriff was only short-lived, clouded by Trump’s success in the race for the White House.

“We do have a local victory and we can push for something that would be really, really great in the state of Texas and the city of Austin, but at the same time, now we have a president who is one hundred times worse than Greg Hamilton,” he said.

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Regardless, Caceres said advocates must continue to fight for what they believe is justice. “We can mourn today, but tomorrow, we have to continue to organize because we don’t want to go back to where we were four, eight years ago.”

 
Read more about Immigration advocates torn between Travis Co. sheriff, Trump wins
Nov 8, 2016
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The Texas Tribune

Travis County sheriff's race likely to bring immigration policy shift

With Democratic Constable Sally Hernandez assured of victory in the race for Travis County sheriff Tuesday night, the liberal enclave in the center of Texas could be in the crosshairs of state lawmakers who want to ban so-called "sanctuary city" policies.

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Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice reform group, said he welcomed working with a new sheriff. The current one, Democrat Greg Hamilton, riled activists and fellow elected officials with his unapologetic embrace of cooperation with federal immigration authorities. 

“We know that now we have a sheriff that is wiling to negotiate with us, unlike Sheriff Hamilton who has been a massive defender of this policy,” Caceres said. "We are more than happy and willing to sit down and talk with her.” Read more about Travis County sheriff's race likely to bring immigration policy shift

Nov 9, 2016
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The Daily Texan

Travis County elects Hernandez as new sheriff

Voters elected Sally Hernandez for Travis County Sheriff in a landslide victory to succeed the 12-year incumbent Greg Hamilton.

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As sheriff, Hernandez said she plans to address the Priority Enforcement Program, a program implemented by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to monitor Travis County jail inmates who may be in the U.S. illegally.

“As Sheriff, I will be committed to treating everyone equally and fairly,” Hernandez said in an email. “I think that today’s vote shows that this community wants an ICE policy that is progressive and keeps families together. It makes our community safer.”

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Alejandro Caceres, Grassroots Leadership immigration organizer, said they will have a greater chance of reforming the immigration enforcement policies with Hernandez in office. 

“For the first time in recent memory we believe that we can sit down and talk to our sheriff about a new policy for Travis County,” Caceres said in a press release. “We are not only celebrating Hamilton’s departure but also the departure of his policies that have torn the immigrant community apart for years.” Read more about Travis County elects Hernandez as new sheriff

Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail

(AUSTIN, Texas) —  Today Grassroots Leadership celebrates the return of in-person visitation to the Travis County Jail.  The decision to restore face-to-face in-person visits follows years of advocacy by formerly incarcerated people, their families, and allies after it was removed in favor of video visits administered by a private, for-profit technology company called Securus in 2013. Read more about Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail
Feb 13, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis County sheriff’s candidates spar over stances on ICE detainers


Of the six candidates seeking to succeed Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, only one said he wants to keep the sheriff’s most controversial policy.

Private investigator Joe Martinez, the lone Republican in the field, told a forum Saturday evening that he would continue Travis County’s participation in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that allows federal officials to monitor who is booked into the jail and detain inmates suspected of being unauthorized immigrants.

“We’re a country of laws, and wherever anybody comes from, they also live with law,” Martinez told the audience at the forum at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. “If we travel as a foreigner into another country, we have to obey and abide by their laws. As far as removing ICE, I would strongly recommend that we not remove ICE. I would strongly recommend that we maintain the current policy with the current Sheriff Hamilton — he’s done a great job.”

The policy has been criticized by groups such as Grassroots Leadership and the ICE Out of Austin Coalition, the hosts of Saturday’s forum, which contend the use of ICE detainers breaks up families and leads to deportation of people arrested for minor offenses. Read more about Travis County sheriff’s candidates spar over stances on ICE detainers

Scrutiny over Travis County's exemption from jail visits, while County deliberates budget

New developments in the effort to restore in-person visitation at the Travis County Jail raise eyebrows on Sheriff Greg Hamilton's intentions to work with the community to ensure that families and their incarcerated loved ones are able to remain reunited. Read more about Scrutiny over Travis County's exemption from jail visits, while County deliberates budget
Jul 10, 2015
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Austin American-Statesman

Rick Perry reprises sanctuary cities issue on a national stage

"One of the underpinnings of Rick Perry’s long-shot bid for president is that his 14 years of governing a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico gives him unique authority on immigration issues.

Then, less than a month ago, real estate mogul Donald Trump entered the race with what seemed a few ill-chosen words on the subject and stormed to the front of the crowded GOP pack, his position strengthened by the tragic July 1 shooting death in San Francisco of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly by Francisco Sanchez, a five-time deportee from Mexico who eluded being deported a sixth time because he found himself in a 'sanctuary city.'
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Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin office of Grassroots Leadership, which backs sanctuary policies, said that no community in Texas fits that description of a sanctuary city.

'We are not a sanctuary city,' said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. At the same time, Acevedo said, 'Most major city police chiefs believe that in an era of limited resources, we are not immigration agents, we’re not ICE.'

The crucial distinction between San Francisco and Austin is that Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, who runs the jail, cooperates with ICE when they ask that a prisoner they suspect of being in the country illegally be detained for extra time, while the sheriff in San Francisco does not." Read more about Rick Perry reprises sanctuary cities issue on a national stage

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