Grassroots Leadership In The News

Sep 13, 2017
/
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
/
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"
Sep 12, 2017
/
Houston Press

Lloyd Doggett Wants to Know What Happened at Beaumont's Federal Prison During Harvey

Following pressure from the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Prison Justice League and Grassroots Leadership, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett is demanding answers from the Bureau of Prisons regarding the treatment of prisoners in the Beaumont facility left without food and water following Hurricane Harvey. “Due to several reports of alarming conditions at the Beaumont facility, I have inquired with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to express my concern and obtain clarification about what actions are being undertaken to protect the well-being of prisoners and staff and to restore the facility to pre-disaster conditions,” Doggett said. The article references Grassroots' press release stating prisoners were ignored despite advance warning of devastating conditions. Read more about Lloyd Doggett Wants to Know What Happened at Beaumont's Federal Prison During Harvey

Sep 11, 2017
/
The Texas Tribune

Texas congressman concerned about Beaumont prisoners after Harvey

Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett has filed an inquiry to the Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding the federal agency’s response to Hurricane Harvey. Prisoners in Beaumont have been kept in inhumane conditions, including lack of access to water. While federal agents deny prisoners' testimonies, "Grassroots Leadership organizer Jorge Renaud said it’s better to 'default on the side of the vulnerable populations. When things rise of the level of someone actually being woken up to say something about a condition ... and is willing to go on the record, it’s usually indicative of quite a few more inside who are actually experiencing the same stuff.'" Read more about Texas congressman concerned about Beaumont prisoners after Harvey
Sep 11, 2017
/
Univision 62

Organizaciones locales piden los planes que tenía ICE para realizar presuntos operativos migratorios

Grassroots Leadership y otras organizaciones pro-inmigrantes “exigen a la agencia que entreguen los documentos que muestran cómo iban a realizar operativos que tenían planeados en Texas y Florida.” En su entrevista con Univision, Claudia Muñoz de Grassroots dijo, “Pensamos que es bien impor saber que ICE dijo que sí tenían un plan y nosotros queremos saber cuál era su plan que tenían para aterrorizar a la comunidad como han hecho antes… Nos estamos dando cuenta de todos estos ataques y la comunidad está cansándose y quiere luchar, quiere pelear por estar aquí.” Sobre el plan de ICE para las redadas, dijo Muñoz, “Esto es algo que tienen que darnos.” Read more about Organizaciones locales piden los planes que tenía ICE para realizar presuntos operativos migratorios

Sep 8, 2017
/
Austin Chronicle

Headlines: Alirio Gámez Takes Sanctuary

"Alirio Gámez, from El Salvador, speaks Monday at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, where he's taken sanctuary. 'I sought sanctuary here because I have the right to life,' he said in his native Spanish. 'I came from El Salvador because I suffered the violence that my country lives with .... I was not eager to come here. The work I had in my country was enough to survive.'" (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Read more about Headlines: Alirio Gámez Takes Sanctuary

Sep 8, 2017
/
Austin Chronicle

Grassroots Advocates to Reject Police Contract

Grassroots continues to advocate for more civilian oversight and accountability of police in the negotations between Austin Police Association and the City of Austin. "[A] coalition of criminal justice activists, including those from the Austin Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership, continue to advocate for scrapping the entire contract, which they say has led to a situation where the two sides too rigidly adhere to what they see as the incredibly flawed original contract language." Read more about Grassroots Advocates to Reject Police Contract

Sep 8, 2017
/
Texas Observer

Salvadoran Man Seeks ‘Sanctuary’ from Deportation in Austin Church

Austin's Sanctuary leader Alirio was featured in Texas Observer with Grassroots staff member Alejandro Caceres. "Rather than submit to Trump’s deportation machine, Alirio Gámez went to church. On Tuesday, the 40-year-old Salvadoran announced to a group of faith leaders, elected officials and activists that he had decided to live inside Austin’s First Unitarian Universalist Church until his pending expulsion is halted. [...] For Gámez, the Austin Sanctuary Network plans to recruit elected officials to the cause and pressure ICE’s San Antonio field office through calls, petitions and personal visits, according to organizer Alejandro Caceres. Asked whether he thought they’d succeed, Gámez merely replied: 'We’re gonna fight.'" Read more about Salvadoran Man Seeks ‘Sanctuary’ from Deportation in Austin Church

Sep 8, 2017
/
Patch

Austin Immigrant Advocates Demand ICE Release Details On Planned 'Mega Raid'

"Austin immigrant advocates are calling on ICE to release documents revealing the scope of the operation. Officials at Austin-based Grassroots Leadership note the timing of the raid at a time when Donald Trump is directing the construction of more private detention facilities such as the new 1000-bed facility in Conroe, Texas. Advocates from Detention Watch Network assert this raid is a mechanism to intentionally elevate detention numbers before the new fiscal year to manufacture a need to fund more new detention beds, officials suspect. 'Trump’s plan to blatantly round up immigrants to fill detention beds ahead of the national budget debate is outrageous,' Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said. 'We will continue to organize to defend local immigrant communities from this latest repulsive threat of a white supremacist ideology that dehumanizes immigrants for political gain and corporate profit.' Read more about Austin Immigrant Advocates Demand ICE Release Details On Planned 'Mega Raid'"
Sep 7, 2017
/
Austin Monitor

Public Safety Commission Recommends End to Juvenile Curfew

Grassroots Leadership has advocated for years to end the juvenile curfew in Austin that permits police targeting and punishment of youth of color. Following community testimonies during public forums earlier this year, the Austin Public Safety Commission has voted to recommend an end to the curfew that disproportionately targets minority communities. "APD data that shows that 17 percent of curfew tickets have been handed to black youths, who represent only 8 percent of the city population between the ages of 10 and 17. Read more about Public Safety Commission Recommends End to Juvenile Curfew"
Sep 5, 2017
/
Fox 7 Austin

Man Takes Sanctuary in Local Congregation to Avoid Deportation

Alirio Gámez, a man from El Salvador who has been living in Austin, has taken sanctuary in a local church to avoid deportation. The Austin Sanctuary Netowkr, a multi-faith coalition of congregations in and around Austin, held a press conference to show solidarity with Gámez in his fight to stay safely in the community. Gámez was forced to leave El Salvador due to violence, and remains in the United States seeking safety and to protect his life. "Both the Austin Sanctuary Network, and Gámez say they won't stop fighting until federal immigration authorities use their discretion to put a stop to deportation. Read more about Man Takes Sanctuary in Local Congregation to Avoid Deportation"
Sep 1, 2017
/
United We Dream

Grassroots Continues Work Following SB4 Injunction

Community leaders and immigration rights organizations gathered outside the Governor's Mansion to celebrate the injunction of SB4 and say "the fight for our dignity continues." Bob Libal, Executive Director at Grassroots, said: “We will continue to organize to put up barriers against Trump’s deportation forces and say 'ni una más,' not one more deportation. We will continue working with our City Council to push for local policies that protect Black and immigrant communities from entering the incarceration and deportation pipelines. We are a strong and united community, building solidarity with each other regardless of immigration status, gender, religious and other identities.” #WithLove4TX Read more about Grassroots Continues Work Following SB4 Injunction
Aug 31, 2017
/
The Austin-American Statesman

Paxton appeals order barring 'sanctuary cities' ban

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a notice of appeal Thursday to a federal court order that largely barred the controversial “sanctuary cities” banfrom taking effect Friday.

That filing came in rapid response to the injunction issued Wednesday evening by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who questioned the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4 and expressed concern over the law’s potential to make local authorities’ jobs more difficult by straining their relationships with their communities.

...

“This injunction is a great victory for all Texans against a hateful bill put forward and signed by Greg Abbott,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “We applaud our local officials for challenging this law, and call on all our local officials to renew resistance to anti-immigrant hate.” Read more about Paxton appeals order barring 'sanctuary cities' ban

Aug 31, 2017
/
KRWG

Texas Advocates Respond to Injunction Ruling on Majority of Discriminatory SB4

Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling blocks significant portions of the law including mandating cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers in local jails, restricting the free speech of local officials, and punishing local police that choose not to inquire about an individual’s immigration status.

This ruling is also the latest in a string that found Texas laws to be discriminatory against people of color.

...

Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, said, “This injunction is a great victory for all Texans against a hateful bill put forward and signed by Greg Abbott. Despite the injunction, Texas remains ground-zero for attacks on immigrant families. SB4 always was and will prove to be about nothing more than encouraging police to racially profile people of color. We applaud our local officials for challenging this law and call on all our local officials to renew resistance to anti-immigrant hate. Our community has the power to enact policies that will protect community members in our city from unnecessary arrest, incarceration, and deportation." Read more about Texas Advocates Respond to Injunction Ruling on Majority of Discriminatory SB4

Aug 25, 2017
/
Houston Chronicle

Streamlined: Trump pressing for mass criminalization of illegal border crossers

DEL RIO - The shackled migrants in orange jumpsuits shuffled into this border town's small federal courtroom one recent morning, each facing a short prison sentence and swift deportation for the federal crime of entering the United States illegally.

In other areas along the border, they might have been simply detained before being quickly removed in an administrative process outside of any courtroom. Perhaps, some would have had a chance to make their case to an immigration judge.

But it was here, in 2005, that frustrated Border Patrol agents developed a program they named Operation Streamline to prosecute all migrants caught within a stretch of the border en masse and channel them into the federal justice system, where the Bureau of Prisons has more resources to hold them for longer before deportation.

So it took U.S. Magistrate Judge Collis White little more than an hour to read all of the 29 shackled defendants their rights, describe their crime of entering without inspection, and then go around the courtroom, inquiring whether they wanted to plead guilty.

Sharing a single defense lawyer, all said they did.

...

Now, President Donald Trump's administration is expanding this program of dizzyingly fast mass convictions to other federal courts along the border in Arizona, even California, and has, under a new directive from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ordered U.S. attorneys across America to prioritize such immigration prosecutions.

...

The expense to the federal courts and Bureau of Prisons of criminalizing what is usually a civil offense is staggering. Detaining migrants on such charges alone costs some $1 billion a year, according to estimates by Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group in Austin opposing incarceration. Read more about Streamlined: Trump pressing for mass criminalization of illegal border crossers

Aug 17, 2017
/
The Austin Chronicle

Advocates: Reject Police Union Contract

City Council is holding budget hearings later this afternoon, with testimony expected on the proposed property tax rate, any fee changes, etc. Criminal justice advocates say they will be there to oppose the current Austin Police Association contract, and demand greater accountability over officer misconduct.

At a morning press conference prior to the Council meeting, Matthew Wallace, accompanied by attorneyBrian McGiverin, described his November 2015 arrest by Austin police officers, allegedly for “jaywalking” across Red River Street near Sixth. Wallace described being attacked, kneed, and punched by police that night, and recounted his arrest on a charge of “resisting arrest.” Those charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors.

...

Supporting Wallace were representatives of several criminal justice advocacy groups, among themCounter Balance: ATXTexas Criminal Justice CoalitionAustin Justice Coalition, and Grassroots Leadership. They declared their opposition to the existing APA union contract, saying that it does not require adequate accountability for offending officers (“Double or Nothing,” May 26). They said current contract negotiations are not making progress on those issues, and they would ask Council today to reject the contract and “reset” the entire process.

McGiverin said he considers the current contract, despite its negotiated creation of the Office of Police Monitor and the Citizens Review Panel, as effectively “toothless,” without serious enforcement authority. Should the city return to no union contract and only Civil Service provisions, McGiverin said, it would serve as an opportunity to “start over” and push for substantive officer accountability. Read more about Advocates: Reject Police Union Contract

Aug 17, 2017
/
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dead Bodies and Billions in Tax Dollars

...

The company's problems didn't end there, though. GEO and other leading for-profit prison corporations have been plagued by health and safety issues for years, with prisoner and staff complaints and wrongful-death lawsuits piling up like mounds of unopened jail mail.

Since 1997, private prisons have been

paid billions

by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to annually house more than 34,000 federal inmates.

But the companies have enjoyed a lucrative relationship with the federal government. Since 1997, they’ve been paid billions by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to annually house more than 34,000 federal inmates. It was a convenient arrangement for a nation with the world’s highest prison population, underpinned by a belief that private corporations could do the job cheaper and better.

...

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas advocacy group that has opposed the private-prison industry for the last 20 years, offered a blunt assessment: “These are very troubled facilities that have a history of people dying of entirely preventable medical conditions or violence.” Read more about Dead Bodies and Billions in Tax Dollars

Aug 9, 2017
/
Ft. Worth Weekly

Back Into the Shadows

...

Actually, there’s a lot to see: Donald Trump has made illegal immigration a central policy of his administration, and the changes that he is instituting are only going to make things worse, according to several people who work on behalf of illegal immigrants. Those changes include a harsh immigration crackdown with more jail time for detainees and rejecting asylum seekers. And the federal attitude is emboldening states to fire up their own harsher immigration laws, according to the accounts of more than a dozen organizations I contacted that are working on behalf of both illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.

One key change, according to those organizations, is that the Obama administration, which deported a record number of illegal immigrants, set the deportation priority on getting rid of people like Jiménez-Joseph, who had been convicted of a criminal felony. While Trump has said he will focus on those same convicted felons, he has actually made all illegal immigrants, from students to mothers of American kids, deportable. Additionally, some jail standards are being relaxed or ignored, worsening the living conditions of people in the deportation pipeline, and a whole lot more people are being detained because bonds for illegal immigrants have shot up. 

...

Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher with Grassroots Leadership, an organization dedicated to eliminating private prisons, said it’s common practice since Trump took office: “There are so many asylum seekers turned away at the border that there are some immigrants’ rights organizations that are developing protocols that will allow them to accompany asylum seekers at the border to ensure that those seekers have their international rights, legal rights, protected.”

...

“We are seeing asylum seekers denied bond even after their credible fear interviews are passed,” Carson said. “They now have to wait for a judge to give them a bond amount, instead of an immigration official like it used to be done. That meant less waiting time in detention prior to being released to await your court date. But we are also seeing higher bonds being asked, and those bonds have to be paid in full.” 

...

“I think that is a direct result of the changes to the immigration court system based on the officials that Trump has selected,” Carson said. “These are a direct result of Trump’s position on immigration.”

...

“We’ve already seen in words and actions how enforcement of detention and deportation has expanded in the last several months,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “We were already at record levels of detained illegal immigrants with the Obama administration, but that is quickly expanding. Read more about Back Into the Shadows

Aug 8, 2017
/
KXAN

Groups look to APD contract negotiations for improved police accountability

Community groups gathered in front of a city of Austin building Tuesday to send a message to the Austin Police Association and to the Austin City Council: they want more transparency and accountability from Austin police.

The groups, which include the ACLU-Texas, Austin Justice Coalition Grassroots Leadership and others, met Tuesday because they’ve been following APA negotiations with the city over their public safety contract. They want significant modifications to the police contract to ensure “transparency, accountability, and oversight.”

...

“We try to come to the negotiating table and say let’s get some citizen oversight and insight that’s coming from the people you engage with,” said Lewis Conway, criminal justice organizer for Grassroots Leadership.

The family of Lawrence Parrish, the man shot by Austin police in April, has also been following these negotiations, hoping they could bring about some of the changes he is looking for. At first Austin police said their four officers fired at Parrish because he had fired at them. Then they revised their statement to say Parrish pointed a rifle at the officers but never fired. APD said Tuesday that while investigations into this case are ongoing, the four officers are now back on full duty.

...

Williams believes the contract can help promote a culture of accountability for APD.

“If they can’t do that or at least apologize or be transparent or accountable enough, then we need to come up with another solution,” he said.

That’s why these groups are calling on city council members not to approve the contract agreement if it doesn’t adequately address accountability issues. Read more about Groups look to APD contract negotiations for improved police accountability

Jul 27, 2017
/
Telemundo

Programa ayuda a mujeres detenidas en centro de inmigración T. Don Hutto

La organización Grassroots Leadership coordina un programa de visitas al centro de inmigración T.Don. Hutto para visitar a mujeres indocumentadas detenidas.

La iniciativa comenzó en el 2009 con el propósito de ofrecer amistad y esperanza a las detenidas, al mismo tiempo que se cercioran que sus derechos no sean violados en el recinto.

...

Como es el caso de la hondureña Jeymi Moncada quien paso un año en este centro tras cruzar la frontera de manera ilegal en el 2009.

“Me vine a Estados Unidos por una sola razón, porque sufría violencia doméstica en mi país por parte de mi ex pareja,” expresó Moncada.

Moncada dijo que esta iniciativa le devolvió la esperanza de reencontrarse con su familia cuando estaba detenida:” La verdad me ayudó mucho, platicamos de muchas cosas, qué cómo estaba, qué cómo nos trataban adentro”.

...

Por lo pronto, se prepara para unirse al grupo de voluntarios que visitan a detenidas para ayudarlas de la misma forma que la ayudaron a ella. Read more about Programa ayuda a mujeres detenidas en centro de inmigración T. Don Hutto

Pages