Grassroots Leadership In The News

Oct 13, 2017
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Austin American-Statesman

ICE plans new 1,000-bed facility in South Texas ‘detention alley’

As the Trump administration cracks down on illegal immigration, the federal government is making plans for a new privately run detention center along Interstate 35 in South Texas, adding 1,000 beds to what is already the world’s largest immigrant detention system. [...]

“This would be yet another for-profit detention center in South Texas along the I-35 corridor, which has become detention alley,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which opposes private prisons.

“What Trump promised was the very high deportation numbers, and the way you get that is through the detention and deportation of asylum seekers” at the border, Libal said, “but if that number remains constant or goes down, you have to find new populations to deport.”

The result, Libal said, is likely to be more ICE raids in immigrant communities, “the stuff that is really terrifying, really dystopic.” Read more about ICE plans new 1,000-bed facility in South Texas ‘detention alley’

Oct 9, 2017
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The Intercept

Texas Sheriff Broke Promise to Keep ICE out of Local Jails

The Intercept wrote an investigation of Sheriff Sally Hernandez's new policy to honor all ICE detainers following the 5th Circuit Court's ruling on the injunction of SB 4. "'I think the bigger picture here is her honoring detainers will mean a lot more deportations for our communities,' said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership. The group had run a campaign highlighting that Travis County, under the previous sheriff, had one of the highest deportation rates in the U.S." Read more about Texas Sheriff Broke Promise to Keep ICE out of Local Jails

Oct 5, 2017
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KUT

In Emails, Federal Immigration Agents In Austin Scramble To Highlight Most 'Egregious' Arrests

"Internal emails between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials show that Austin-area immigration officials tried to highlight the most “egregious” cases of suspected undocumented immigrants picked up during two days of immigration raids in February.

Fifty-one people were arrested in those raids.

The heavily-redacted emails, obtained by Vanderbilt Law School students through a public information request, were published first by The Intercept. They were provided to KUT by Bob Libal, executive director of local immigrants’ rights group, Grassroots Leadership." Read more about In Emails, Federal Immigration Agents In Austin Scramble To Highlight Most 'Egregious' Arrests

Oct 4, 2017
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The Intercept

Internal Emails Show ICE Agents Struggling To Substantiate Trump's Lies About Immigrants

"AS HUNDREDS OF undocumented immigrants were rounded up across the country last February in the first mass raids of the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials went out of their way to portray the people they detained as hardened criminals, instructing field offices to highlight the worst cases for the media and attempting to distract attention from the dozens of individuals who were apprehended despite having no criminal background at all. ...Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based civil rights group, said the emails show just 'how aggressive and desperate and duplicitous ICE was during these raids.' 'Essentially this is ICE trying to gin up a case for its actions, when really this isn’t at all about public safety,' he told The Intercept after reviewing the correspondence. 'We can thoroughly expect that’s what they’re going to try to do again.'" Read more about Internal Emails Show ICE Agents Struggling To Substantiate Trump's Lies About Immigrants

Oct 1, 2017
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KUT

Immigrants' Rights Groups Confront Fear And Confusion After Latest 'Sanctuary Cities' Ruling

"Bob Libal, executive director of the immigrants’ rights group Grassroots Leadership, said the constant fear of being deported can have an effect on peoples’ mental health. The Austin Police Department has had a verbal policy that officers will ask about a person's immigration status only if it's pertinent to the case – for example, in a case of human trafficking. Monday’s ruling didn't change the department's procedures very much. Officers will now track when and why they ask about immigration status. Libal said the fear of interacting with anyone who resembles law enforcement can also compromise physical health. 'During the immigration raids here in February,' he says, 'we saw things like declines in attendance at school, declines in people accepting rides in ambulances.' Read more about Immigrants' Rights Groups Confront Fear And Confusion After Latest 'Sanctuary Cities' Ruling"
Sep 28, 2017
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Reveal

ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is soliciting private-sector interest in a new detention center to hold 1,000 people in South Texas, according to a notice posted Wednesday on a federal contracting site.

The post is a preliminary request for information, asking for room to house men and women within 50 miles of I-35. ICE said its preference is for a facility dedicated to holding its detainees, but it would consider a large facility with inmates from another agency. The agency said it will consider pre-existing facilities, renovated old facilities or new construction.

The contract would mean more good news for the private prison industry, which has rebounded quickly under President Donald Trump. A year ago, the federal government seemed poised to end deals with the private prison industry’s biggest players, after federal inspectors noted safety concerns in their facilities.

...

The new South Texas facility likely would be the largest since then, according to Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based nonprofit that tracks private prisons and advocates against expanding them.

“This would continue the trend of this administration’s giveaways to the private prison industry at the expense of immigrants that it’s targeting for deportation,” Libal said. The region already is home to many of ICE’s largest detention centers, in remote towns without easy access to legal help, he said.

“I would question the logic behind this,” he said, “because from what we’ve heard, for the most part, asylum-seeking folks, that population hasdeclined in the first few months, while internal apprehensions have increased.” Read more about ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

Sep 28, 2017
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LatinoUSA

Texas ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Case Ruling Gets Mixed Reactions

The ruling of the 5th Circuit Court on SB 4 "caused Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez... to change her policy and honor all immigration detention requests placed on inmates. Hernandez previously honored detainers when inmates were charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault or human trafficking while others were considered on a case-by-basis. 'As I have maintained throughout this process, I have not violated federal or state law, nor do I intend (to),' Hernandez told local media. 'Our policy has been updated to comply with the finding of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.' The decision is disappointing to immigration advocates in Texas who counted on Hernandez to stand with Democrats against a majority Republican state leadership on this divisive issue. 'It is massively disappointing for us to see our sheriff, who had such a strong stance on this, reverse her position,' said Cristina Parker, communications director for Grassroots Leadership. 'She got some bad information from [Texas Attorney General] Ken Paxton and other sources.' Penalties for violating SB4 include jail time and fines of up to $25,500 per day. Elected officials found in violation of the law could be forced out of office. Read more about Texas ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Case Ruling Gets Mixed Reactions"
Sep 25, 2017
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The Patch

Federal Court Stays Texas SB 4 Law Compelling Local Law Enforcement To Cooperate With ICE

In response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling on SB 4, local officials and activists commented on the court's ruling. Grassroots Leadership upholds that no matter the court ruling, we know the deadly consequences of ICE detainers, detention, and deportation. '"We won’t wait for the courts to tell us what we all know to be true: SB4 is nothing but an attack on immigrant communities,' Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said... In conveying the law's flaws, Muñoz referenced a recent case involving a young immigrant who had escaped the violence of his native Mexico only to be deported and promptly murdered upon his return by the very criminal gangs he fled. The chain of events leading to the death of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero began when ICE agents tracked his whereabouts to the Travis County Courthouse where he reported to a judge on a matter unrelated to his status." Read more about Federal Court Stays Texas SB 4 Law Compelling Local Law Enforcement To Cooperate With ICE

Sep 25, 2017
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KUT 90.5

After Court Ruling, Travis County Will Comply With All ICE Detention Requests

In response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' preliminary ruling on SB 4, Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced that she would change Travis County policy to honor all ICE detentions, countering her previous policy to limit ICE intervention in local jails. Grassroots Leadership executive director Bob Libal said, “Any policy changes that lead to deportations from Travis County have the potential to be deadly. We really need our elected officials to stand up now and fight legally and also through creative policies to reduce the number of deportations from our community.” Read more about After Court Ruling, Travis County Will Comply With All ICE Detention Requests
Sep 22, 2017
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Spectrum News

Immigration rights advocates call deportee's death preventable

Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership, spoke about APD's unjust arrest of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero for an incident his wife said never happened, and ultimately led to his deportation and death. "ICE is fully aware of the fatal consequences of deportation and still chooses to violently target the most vulnerable people in society for their own profit and political gain," Carson said Read more about Immigration rights advocates call deportee's death preventable.
Sep 21, 2017
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Rewire

Deported to Death: Cases That Reveal the Danger of U.S. Immigration Policy

National coverage reports the deaths of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, an undocumented immigrant deported and killed in Mexico, and Felipe Almazan-Ruiz, a man who died in ICE's custody last week. Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer at the Grassroots Leadership, told Rewire: “The dangerous conditions that people from different countries are facing are well understood, and it’s well-documented that specific types of people are very much in danger if they are deported back to their home countries. This is the basis of U.S. asylum law, but sadly it doesn’t cover everyone who is in danger and [Guerrero] is an example of that,” Carson said. “ICE treats people like numbers and price tags. Juan’s wife made it very clear her husband would be murdered if he were deported, but ICE didn’t listen.” Read more about Deported to Death: Cases That Reveal the Danger of U.S. Immigration Policy

Sep 20, 2017
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The Patch

Ensnared By ICE In Austin, Deported Immigrant Winds Up Murdered In Mexico

Local advocates and Grassroots Leadership decry the recent deportation of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, 28, from Austin during the February ICE raids that led to his death in Mexico. He was arrested by ICE within the Travis County courthouse. “Immigration raids have impacts on individuals and their families that are now often deadly,” Bethany Carson of Grassroots Leadership said. “The county policy refusing to honor most unconstitutional detainers only protects immigrants in our community if they cannot later be snatched from our courts and our streets. Stopping ICE is now a life-and-death matter. Our local elected leaders must do everything within their power to stop these deportations.” Read more about Ensnared By ICE In Austin, Deported Immigrant Winds Up Murdered In Mexico

Sep 19, 2017
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Austin American-Statesman

Immigrant taken by ICE from Austin courthouse was killed in Mexico

Immigration advocates today responded with sadness and anger to news of the deaths of two men following apprehension by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, who was arrested in February during a controversial raid on an Austin courthouse and later deported, was violently killed in Mexico last week, according to a story in the Austin American-Statesman. The article included this quote from Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer with Grassroots: “It really is an act of violence at this point to continue the immigration policies that the government is currently pushing that are sending so many people back to their deaths. Read more about Immigrant taken by ICE from Austin courthouse was killed in Mexico"
Sep 15, 2017
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Austin Chronicle

Activists' Hopes for Police Negotiations Hinge on Statute of Limitations

Criminal justice organizers with Grassroots Leadership are advocating for an end to the police contract negotiations, known as the meet-and-confer process, that foster a culture of impunity. "'We have met and did not confer,' said Lewis Conway of Grassroots Leadership. 'Because, at this point, that whole meet-and-confer process is useless. It's outdated. There's no fixing it. And part of that process is the Review Panel."' The Austin Chronicle article sheds light on the disparities between police rhetoric and the demands of justice advocates on this broken process.

The article also describes this video created by Grassroots staff Chris Harris showing the comments of APA President Ken Casaday on the brutal arrest of Breaion King in July 2015. "In a harshly spliced video shown during City Council's Aug. 31 meeting, Casaday is seen talking about King's arrest at a bargaining session – reminding city negotiators that two commanders looked at the case and saw 'perhaps a training issue,' but no violation of APD policy. Between his comments are clips from the dash-cam footage of King being wrestled to the ground. 'It's jarring,' said Chris Harris, the film's creator. 'But I think gets across well what we're facing with the meet-and-confer process, and why it's pointless to negotiate under current conditions.' Supporting that point, albeit unintentionally, Casaday reminded that any change to the provision would cost the city elsewhere. These are negotiations, after all." Read more about Activists' Hopes for Police Negotiations Hinge on Statute of Limitations

Sep 15, 2017
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Mundo Hispanico

Activistas proinmigrantes le exigen a ICE que ‘muestre sus papeles’ y aclare si realizará redadas

Activistas de Austin y San Antonio dijo a ICE: Muéstranos Tus Papeles. "Queremos una respuesta por parte de ICE," dijo Sulma Franco de Austin Sanctuary Network. sobre las redadas que ICE habia pleneado. "Queremos saber que iba a pasar, y donde, y a quien iban a perseguir," dijo Norma Herrera de Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Activistas proinmigrantes le exigen a ICE que ‘muestre sus papeles’ y aclare si realizará redadas

Sep 14, 2017
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Austin Chronicle

Doggett Seeks Info on Prison Evacuation (or Lack Thereof)

Media attention continues as Rep. Lloyd Doggett acts with Grassroots Leadership and partners to demand answers for the Federal Bureau of Prisons' decision to leave Beaumont-area prisoners in the path of Hurricane Harvey. Prisoners faced inadequate and unsanitary sewage treatment, intermittent power shortages, and lack of access to food, water and medical care. "In his request, Doggett asks the FBP to clarify 'what actions are being undertaken to protect the wellbeing of prisoners and staff and to restore the facility to pre-disaster conditions.' The Texas representative joins local nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, the ACLU of Texas, and more in demanding the federal prison system address the unlivable situation at FCI Beaumont, and to 'create clear policy on the circumstances in which a federal prison must be evacuated,' said ACLU Deputy Political Director Matt Simpson. Read more about Doggett Seeks Info on Prison Evacuation (or Lack Thereof)"
Sep 13, 2017
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Univision 41 San Antonio

Protestan frente a ICE por operativos masivos

Activistas de Grassroots Leadership, RAICES, Movimiento Cosecha, y Red de Santuario Austin protestaron a la oficina local de ICE en San Antonio para decir: ICE muéstranos tus papeles. La coalición exigió que ICE nos revelara los planes para redadas masivas que han planeado por este mes. ICE ha dijo que supuestamente habían cancelado las redadas después de los huracanes, pero la comunidad no les confía. En su entrevista con Univision, Claudia Muñoz de Grassroots dijo, "Como comunidad, pensamos que nunca hay tiempo correcto para redadas, entonces venimos a exigir los planes que tenían.” Cuando la agencia negó de tener algún tipo de información, respondió Sulma Franco, “Realmente migración no quisieron contestarnos... Es frustrante que ellos no tengan el carácter para decirnos realmente cuando van a hacer las redadas.” Read more about Protestan frente a ICE por operativos masivos

Sep 12, 2017
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Texas Observer

The Road to Huntsville by Jorge Antonio Renaud

Jorge Renaud, community organizer with the Texas Advocates for Justice at Grassroots, published an essay in the Texas Observer titled "The Road to Huntsville" on his experience riding "chain buses" over fifteen times to the Huntsville prison. Renaud writes with profundity and clarity on the absurd treatment of prisoners by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the resilience he claimed for his own transformation. "There is no mystery or romance to prison, not to the iron or stink or violent hopelessness that seeps into its very air, and certainly not to the means of transport by which people arrive or are transferred between the 110 or so TDCJ units... Still, despite all its cruelties, the 1,400-mile 'bus therapy' meant to punish me had the opposite effect. I was away from cages and cacophony when on the chain, and I always accepted the discomfort of bus rides as a welcome respite from the numbing monotony of prison, the rocking bus and green countryside rejuvenating my spirit. Transformation finds few footholds in steel. Life in a cage too often leads to self-pity, not self-improvement. People who are incarcerated understand and struggle with those truths. We seek spaces where the spirit does not recoil: a few moments in a library, a recreation yard quieted by the rain. For me it was the road; the fact that my wrists were bound by iron made little difference. Read more about The Road to Huntsville by Jorge Antonio Renaud"

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