Travis County, Texas, has one of the highest deportation rates in the U.S. thanks to the local sheriff’s voluntary cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An average of 19 immigrants a week are deported here. Stopping the deportation dragnet in Travis County would mean stopping the potential detention and deportation of thousands of Austin-area residents. Grassroots Leadership, in coalition with other groups in the Austin-area, is making that happen by engaging in direct action, community education, and dialogue with local elected officials.
The #19TooMany Campaign
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar was among 18 protestors who were arrested Monday evening and issued citations for criminal trespassing after staging a sit-in at Governor Greg Abbott's business office.
The group staged a sit-in at the office after a morning protest at the south gate of the Capitol to speak against Senate Bill 4 (SB4).
The bill, which was passed by the Senate in February and the House of Representatives last week, will require all Texas law enforcement honor ICE detainers.
Governor Abbott made banning "sanctuary cities" an emergency item during his State of the State address, indicating his plans to support legislation like SB4. But the protestors are asking him to instead veto the bill.
Troopers informed the group they would be cited for criminal trespassing and asked them to leave peacefully, saying they did not want to arrest them, but the protestors sat unmoved.
Casar said he and the protestors were told because of the capacity of the jail, the magistrate had come to them. The group was processed, received citations, then released. Read more about Council member Greg Casar, protesters arrested after sit-in at Governor's office
State troopers arrested about 20 protesters denouncing Senate Bill 4, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, who refused to leave a state office building after it closed at 5 p.m. Monday
Split into two groups, protesters, including immigrants, faith leaders and elected officials, locked arms and blocked both entrances of the State Insurance Building for several hours. They called on Gov. Greg Abbott to veto SB4, authored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock which would require local governments to cooperate with federal immigration officers and hold jail inmates, otherwise eligible for release, for possible federal detention and deportation.
The measure, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would require police to enforce federal immigration law by asking for the immigration status of people they detain. Opponents have called it the “show-me-your-papers” bill.
Organized by advocacy groups ICE Out of Austin, Austin Sanctuary Network, Grassroots Leadership and RAICES, the protesters attempted to keep people from entering the building by sitting just inside the doorways for about eight hours before it closed at 5 p.m.
At one teach-in, Barbara Hines, an immigration rights attorney, questioned the constitutionality of SB 4. It could allow a person to be placed in custody for 48 hours “just because of being asked about their immigration status at a traffic stop,” Hines said.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is among those who have spoken out against the bill.
Police chiefs of Austin, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio and the Texas Police Chiefs Association released a letter Friday predicting the bill will “lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and will foster the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.” Read more about Protesters blocking doors at Texas Gov. Abbott's office over 'sanctuary city' bill arrested
Officers arrested demonstrators who staged an all-day sit-in Monday to protest legislation banning so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions.
Dozens of people staged the sit-in at the Texas State Insurance Building, calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to reject Senate Bill 4, which would require cooperation with warrantless detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
After nearly nine hours, protesters were told to leave by Department of Public Safety officers. Those who did not were told they'd either be cited or booked on site by a judge. Roughly 20 people were either arrested or cited.
Abbott made the issue an emergency item for the legislative session and has publicly criticized Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's policy regarding the warrantless requests. Abbott also pulled $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from the county because of the policy, which honors requests only if someone has been charged with murder, human trafficking or aggravated sexual assault.
The sit-in was organized by the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Cristina Parker, a projects coordinator for the group, said early in the day, “We’ll do what we have to do to get our message across today. We’re not leaving until they hear it or they drag us out of here.” Read more about Demonstrators Arrested After Staging Sit-In At State Office to Protest 'Sanctuary' Bill
More than 20 protesters, including immigrants, students, a pair of elected officials and a Christian pastor, were arrested Monday evening after staging an all-day sit-in demonstration in the lobby of a state office building to call on Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the bill banning so-called sanctuary cities.
It’s an unlikely proposition, given that Abbott has listed signing Senate Bill 4, which would impose stiff penalties on cities and counties that decline in some way to assist federal immigration enforcement, as one of his top priorities for lawmakers this year. But the demonstrators said they wanted to send the message that the fight over the bill, which is nearing the legislative finish line after being approved by the House last week, is far from over.
“I accept that sitting in means risking arrest, but what I’m not willing to accept is the harm that Gov. Abbott and others want to inflict on immigrant communities,” Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, one of the demonstrators at the State Insurance Building just southeast of the Capitol, said before his arrest.
The building houses one of the governor’s staff offices, but Abbott was not in the building during the demonstration. His office did not respond to a request for comment about the protest, which was organized by Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that opposes private prisons and advocates for immigrants. Read more about All day sit-in protest of 'sanctuary cities' bill ends in arrests
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions today instructed federal prosecutors to put even more Justice Department resources into immigration prosecutions in their districts. A memo released today along with remarks by Attorney General Sessions in Nogales, Arizona, instructs prosecutors to prioritize immigration crimes including unauthorized entry and re-entry into the United States, harboring unauthorized immigrants, and impeding arrest of undocumented migrants. Read more about Immigration cases taking up half of all federal prosecutions somehow not enough for Sessions
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.
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
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.
“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?
(AUSTIN, Texas) — The Trump administration continued its campaign of fear mongering and misinformation today, repeating old threats to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” by withholding federal funding, actions that legal experts say are (still) likely unconstitutional.
In a public announcement obviously intended to distract from the Trump administration’s humiliating defeat on healthcare last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated threats to defund “sanctuary cities” — all from a previous executive order. Read more about To distract from his boss’ failures, Sessions threatens “sanctuary cities” — again
In Austin, some courts might have to be crowdfunded.
That’s because the city is what President Donald Trump calls a “sanctuary city”—and it’s facing extraordinary pressure, both political and financial, to join the Trump administration’s mass deportation efforts.
Austin is in Travis County, where its so-called sanctuary policy has already cost it $1.5 million in state funding that would have paid for drug courts, veterans’ courts, and aid to domestic violence victims.
Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other advocates of tougher immigration enforcement urge local police and sheriffs to help ICE in its deportation efforts. But many local law enforcement officials—including including Travis County’s new sheriff, Sally Hernandez—are hesitant, fearing that undocumented immigrants will be less likely to help police track down dangerous criminals if those police are in cahoots with ICE.
When Hernandez announced the county wouldn’t always cooperate with Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott cut state funding to the county.
So the sheriff’s supporters are now crowdfunding to make up for the lost cash—cash that pays for special courts designed to help War on Terror veterans with PTSD and parents with drug addictions. And it’s unlikely to be an anomaly, as Austin has become a national focal point in Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
That’s a lot of pressure by itself—lost funding, and even the threat of prison. But some say it’s not all. Bob Libal, who heads the anti-deportation group Grassroots Leadership, told The Daily Beast in February that he thought ICE deportation raids taking in place in Austin were retaliation for Hernandez’s policy. Since then, a federal magistrate judge said she shared that view.
Libal said he thinks ICE crackdowns will continue.
“We fully anticipate that we will continue to be a target,” he said. Read more about Sanctuary City Starts GoFundMe After Gov Cuts Grants
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.
“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.
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.
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