The #19TooMany Campaign

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.

 

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Feb 2, 2017
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Texas Public Radio

Immigrants rally against Governor's call to ban sanctuary cities

Immigrants rallied at the Texas Capitol Wednesday to oppose Gov. Abbott’s calls to make a ban on sanctuary cities an emergency item. 
At the State Capitol close to 100 immigrants and activist rallied against so-called sanctuary city legislation.  They’re worried about a bill filed by Sen Charles Perry a Lubbock Republican.  It would withhold funding from local law enforcement departments if officers arrest immigrants –even for minor charges – then don’t hold them longer for possible deportation.
 
Maria Fructosa’s, 43, was one of dozens of legal immigrants who spoke at the rally.  In 2015, Fructosa’s adult son was detained by federal immigration agents after police in Pearsall southwest of San Antonio stopped him for a traffic violation.
 
“So my son was detained because of a traffic stop because one of his lights was out and because of that he was then transferred and detained for three months," she says.
 
Fructosa says her son was finally released – 3 months later -after federal agents determined he was in the country legally. She says every morning since she has clutched her son a little tighter.
 
"Every morning I give him a blessing, I tell him to have a good day, to go with the blessing of God because sometimes we see each other in the morning and we don’t know if we are going to see each other that night," she says.
 
Fructosa fears that under Sen. Perry’s bill, detention and deportations will increase.  She says Texas immigrants will be afraid of reporting crimes because they might end up being deported.
 
Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit fighting for fewer deportations, believes Latinos would be targeted if Perry’s bill passes.
 
“There’s that old saying in Texas, you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.  And a ride downtown now means deportation.  So this essentially opens up a license for individual officers to discriminate if they suspect someone is undocumented," he says.
 
Libal claims when similar laws passed in other states deportations that began with minor traffic stop increased.   Read more about Immigrants rally against Governor's call to ban sanctuary cities

Feb 1, 2017
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The Texas Tribune

Ahead of Thursday hearing, Texas Senate adds muscle to anti-sanctuary city bill

Ahead of a hearing on the measure that is expected to draw hundreds, Senate Republicans have updated their bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Texas to cover college campuses and expand potential punishments for local entities that choose to not enforce immigration laws.

The modified version of Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, was given to members of the Senate State Affairs Committee Tuesday, and a public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday morning.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott declared the issue one of four emergency items of the session. That designation means lawmakers could debate and pass the bill within weeks rather than adhering to the traditional 60-day waiting period to hear bills on the floor of either chamber. 

Sanctuary policies refer to entities — such as cities, counties or colleges — that do not comply with federal immigration law. Perry’s bill would allow local police to enforce immigration laws but only if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.

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Bob Libal, the executive director of watchdog group Grassroots Leadership, said Perry's bill opens the door to local leaders being bullied by the state's leadership. 

"Threats to localities that are trying to do right by their residents is a big problem," Libal said. "It threatens to make our communities less safe."

Libal also said that demanding local entities comply with ICE will lead to mass deportation that would also sweep up nonviolent offenders.

"We can safely assume that we [will be] back to the peak numbers because of this program," he said. 

The UT-Austin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also plans to protest Perry's bill during Thursday's public hearing, according to a chapter spokesman. Read more about Ahead of Thursday hearing, Texas Senate adds muscle to anti-sanctuary city bill

Feb 2, 2017
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KXAN

Immigration advocates bracing for possible raids, training volunteers

Local immigration attorneys and activists are bracing for possible raids in Central Texas, after President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that makes substantial changes to America’s immigration system. This federal order, combined with the current immigration policy back-and-forth battle between Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and Gov. Greg Abbott, has immigration advocates concerned.

“Right now there’s a lot of rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is beefing up their officers here in Austin because they plan to do a raid sometime in the weekend or sometime in the next few days,” said Alejandro Caceres, an immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership. “I think that people should be on alert. I think that folks should be on the lookout.”

The activist group is going so far as to train volunteers on how to interact with law enforcement officials, local and federal, if an immigration raid breaks out in the area. The training is provided through a new program the organization started called “Sanctuary in the Streets,” which the organization said they’re borrowing from movements in Philadelphia.

“We’ve trained up to 130 people, but the plan is to train 500 people to get ready if a raid does happen,” said Caceres. The trained volunteers are already on-call and will be in the next few days.

Caceres says it comes as no surprise that members of the local immigrant community are fearful of possible raids.

“I think that they’re seeing what the state is doing. I think they’re seeing what the federal government is doing. I think it’s a really scary time,” he added.

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Austin-area Grassroots Leadership is echoing the need for what they’re calling “Know Your Rights Education.”

“Don’t open your door if there isn’t a warrant. Make sure that your kids don’t open the door as soon as the door is knocked. If there is a warrant, make sure that it’s signed by a judge. Make sure that everyone’s information is correct,” said Caceres. “Don’t open your door. Don’t talk to officers if you don’t need to, and don’t sign anything.”

    Read more about Immigration advocates bracing for possible raids, training volunteers
    Feb 2, 2017
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    The Washington Post

    The 'sanctuary city' on the front line of the fight over Trump's immigration policy

     Last spring, Jim Rigby opened the doors of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church to Hilda Ramirez and her 10-year-old son, undocumented immigrants fleeing civil strife in Guatemala. He borrowed some furniture, set up bunk beds in the Sunday school teacher’s office — and trained church members to lock the doors and form a human shield if immigration officers come knocking.

    “Do we stand up for human rights now? Or do we act like zebras on the Serengeti, hoping the lion eats us last?” said Rigby, 66, the longtime minister of one of Austin’s most liberal houses of worship. “People of good conscience,” he said, must put themselves between asylum seekers and “harm’s way.”

    Rigby is part of a growing movement determined to oppose President Trump’s policies for cracking down on immigration. While thousands of protesters gather nationwide to decry Trump’s temporary travel ban on refugees and on citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations, Rigby and other activists in cities with large immigrant populations are bracing for what they fear will come next: a wave of raids and deportations.

    Trump has called for the deportation of as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes on U.S. soil. In one of his first acts as president, Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to look at withholding federal funding from cities that refuse to assist immigration officials, a loose collection of municipalities known as “sanctuary cities.”

    Austin has become the first battleground in that conflict, where the governor and a local sheriff are now locked in a standoff over the issue. A liberal enclave in the heart of conservative Texas, the capital city lies a little more than three hours from the Mexican border. About 35 percent of its 931,000 residents are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census estimates, and the city is home to a vibrant sanctuary movement that sprang to life during President Barack Obama’s first term, when his administration carried out a record number of deportations.

    In November, voters in Travis County, which includes Austin, elected a new sheriff, who campaigned on a promise not to detain people based solely on their immigration status. Hours after Trump took office, Sheriff Sally Hernandez (D) posted an eight-minute video on her official website explaining the new policy, which took effect Wednesday.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a Trump supporter and immigration hard-liner, quickly fought back, accusing Hernandez of playing “a dangerous game of political Russian roulette — with the lives of Texans at stake.”

    This week, Abbott made good on a threat to withhold $1.5 million in state criminal justice grants, money that funds services for veterans, parents struggling with drug addiction and victims of family violence. He also asked state agencies by Friday to prepare a full list of all state funding provided to Travis County, suggesting that additional punishment may be forthcoming.

    ...

    Abbott called on lawmakers to act urgently to ban sanctuary cities. A measure drafted by state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), an Abbott ally, would withhold state funding from cities, counties and colleges that do not comply with immigration detainers. It also would require county jailers to determine and record the immigration status of every arrestee. Supporters and protesters of the legislation crammed into the Texas statehouse Thursday for a hearing of the bill, which, as Perry acknowledged under questioning, does not actually define “sanctuary city.”

    Last week, Abbott threatened to oust Hernandez, who was elected with 60 percent of the vote. Legislation to permit him to do so has yet to be filed, but a spokesman for Abbott noted that the threat to cut off state funding was sufficient to persuade the Dallas County sheriff to abandon sanctuary policies last year.

    ...

    In Austin, sanctuary activists applaud the new sheriff’s stance. But they say that keeping ICE out of the county jail will not be enough to thwart the crackdown. So they’re planning mass acts of civil disobedience, soliciting churches to shelter undocumented immigrants, developing neighborhood warning systems so people know to hide when ICE comes through and training volunteers to act as human shields.

    “Our plan is to prepare 500 people to do sanctuary in the streets,” said Alejandro Caceres, 29, a legal resident from Honduras who leads the ICE Out of Austin campaign for the civil rights group Grassroots Leadership.

    ...

    Rigby, the church minister, acknowledges that sheltering an undocumented immigrant is risky. “When you’re aiding someone who is being called a criminal, you’re protecting them in your church, you can be charged with violating federal law,” he said.

    But Rigby insists that Americans have a humanitarian obligation to provide shelter to innocent people fleeing violence and lawlessness — even if it means defying the government in Washington and the Texas statehouse.

    “You got a president and a governor who are rattling swords,” Rigby said. “Would you protect people being hunted? Well, now we get to find out the answer.” Read more about The 'sanctuary city' on the front line of the fight over Trump's immigration policy

    Feb 1, 2017
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    Austin American-Statesman

    Immigrants, former inmates team up against prisons, deportations

    A coalition of more than 100 immigrants, activists and former inmates marched through downtown Austin on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to give them a break as they consider legislation aimed at punishing so-called sanctuary cities and rolling back “fair chance” hiring policies.

    ...

    The experiences of former jail and prison inmates are not always the same as those of immigrants who entered the United States illegally, but Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, said there are many parallels to the challenges they face.

    “There is a (cross section) between the same communities who are being exploited and oppressed for profit and for gain from these private prison corporations, and from those who would wish to push us down through these bills in the legislature,” Casini said.

    Lewis Conway Jr., a towering man who spent eight years in prison and another 12 on probation shouted into a megaphone as the crowd rumbled through downtown behind a booming drum line.

    “Make Some noise for no more prisons, no more deportations, no more ICE, no more police brutality, no more drug wars in our community,” he said.

    Conway now serves as a criminal justice program associate for Grassroots Leadership, a group that seeks an end to mass incarceration, deportation and privately run prisons. He called the prison system a social control mechanism.

    “Many of the members of our community are locked in that jail, and they keep making excuses for keeping them locked up. But we’re not going to accept any more excuses,” Conway said. “The same excuses they made for those jails they made for slavery. The same excuses they made for why black lives don’t matter (are) why that jail exists.”

    Melvin Halsey, a Navy veteran with the Texas Advocates for Justice said he wants to promote unity between the LBGT community, immigrants and the formerly incarcerated, and band together against the challenges the groups face.

    Halsey, who said he suffers from mental health issues and has been incarcerated four times for offenses related to drugs and alcohol, said he is looking for a chance to be a good father and grandfather.

    “There are so many of us who are formerly incarcerated who need a job, who need housing, who need to take care of our children and grandchildren,” Halsey said. “To kill that would just be devastating to a lot of us.” Read more about Immigrants, former inmates team up against prisons, deportations

    200+ individuals from across Texas impacted by incarceration and deportation to march and rally at Capitol

    WHAT: Statewide #kNOwMORE2017 Advocacy Day

    WHEN: February 1st, series of events takes place between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

    VISUALS: 200 marchers lift off, speakers in front of the jail, rally speakers and art installation at the Capitol

    WHO: Led by Texas Advocates for Justice, participating organizations will include: Read more about 200+ individuals from across Texas impacted by incarceration and deportation to march and rally at Capitol

    Jan 27, 2017
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    KCENTV

    Battle gets heated in Austin against Sheriff and Governor over new Immigration executive orders

    As border control becomes more of a priority with the new White House administration, the fight over sanctuary cities is heating up close to home.

    The county sheriff of Austin and Gov. Greg Abbott are facing off in a high-profile political battle as two different party mindsets clash in the Texas state capitol.

    ...

    “The governor has issues two main threats,” she said. “one is to withhold funds from Travis County- these are things that fund stuff like homeless programs, public-safety programs, needed money-to the tune of about $1.8 million,” Cristina parker, Immigration Programs Director for the Immigrant-Rights group Grassroots Leadership said.

    ...

    Senate Bill 4, which will be reviewed next week by legislation committees, defines sanctuary cities as those that do not cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.  

    Hernandez has said that she will be willing to work with ICE if they give the proper due process of the law.

    “She will work with ICE if they come with a warrant. They come with a warrant for some, she’ll honor that,” Parker said, “And every other law enforcement agency, they come with a warrant. And so really, “Sally’s just saying she wants ICE to have to follow that kind of due process.” Read more about Battle gets heated in Austin against Sheriff and Governor over new Immigration executive orders

    Texans demand local leaders stand up to Gov. Abbott’s bullying over immigration policy

    (AUSTIN, Texas) — Outcry from across Texas continues to grow after Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to punish communities whose local leaders uphold the constitution and keep their communities safe by limiting use of local law enforcement resources for deportation. The Governor announced during an interview that not only would he hold hostage public safety and social services funds from Travis County, he would also try to remove duly-elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez from office for her common-sense policy on limiting the county’s participation in deportations. Read more about Texans demand local leaders stand up to Gov. Abbott’s bullying over immigration policy

    Jan 25, 2017
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    The San Antonio Current

    Trump's Order Means Border Wall, More Immigrant Detention In Texas

    Five days after his swearing in as president, Donald Trump signed executive orders on immigration that seem to follow through with some of his bleakest campaign promises — from strong-arming Mexico into paying for a border wall to banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country (including refugees of Syria's brutal civil war) and building up a deportation force to remove some of the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

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    Wednesday, January 25, 2017

    Trump's Order Means Border Wall, More Immigrant Detention In Texas

    Posted By  on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    CBP

    • CBP

    Five days after his swearing in as president, Donald Trump signed executive orders on immigration that seem to follow through with some of his bleakest campaign promises — from strong-arming Mexico into paying for a border wall to banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country (including refugees of Syria's brutal civil war) and building up a deportation force to remove some of the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

    What the Trump White House announced on Wednesday is expected to have an enormous impact on Texas, which over the past decade has already seen a buildup of federal agents, state police, fencing and walls and other barriers along its 1,250 mile border with Mexico. In addition to expediting the buildup of a border wall (which Texas members of Congress don't even really want), the Trump administration hinted at how it might try to force Mexico to chip in on its construction; one executive order Trump signed Wednesday directs agency heads to "identify and quantify" the amount of foreign aid Mexico has received over the past five years, which the Trump administration could threaten to withhold if Mexico won't play ball. 

    What's also notable, but not surprising, about Trump's executive action on immigration is that it expands the massive detention complex that has thrived in South Texas — and enriched private prison corporations that secured lucrative federal contracts to jail everyone from immigrants convicted of crimes to asylum-seeking women and children. Here's what White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Texas Tribune: "We’re going to create more detention space for illegal immigrants along the southern border to make it easier and cheaper to detain them and return them to their country of origin. We’re going to end the last administration’s dangerous catch-and-release policy, which has led to the deaths of many Americans.”

    Cristina Parker with Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based nonprofit that's pushed against the buildup of private-prison run immigrant detention centers in Texas (and even went to court when state health officials tried to give one such facility a child care license last year), said this of Wednesday's executive action: "This will almost certainly mean more immigrant detention in Texas, and if the past is any indicator, we'll be putting even more people in the hands of for-profit prison companies." 

    ... Read more about Trump's Order Means Border Wall, More Immigrant Detention In Texas

    Jan 24, 2017
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    The Austin American Statesman

    Like in Travis County, Dallas County sheriff incurred Abbott’s wrath

    Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez knows what it’s like to get a letter from the governor.

    In 2015, Valdez announced that her office would no longer provide blanket compliance with federal immigration officials seeking to intercept unauthorized immigrants at local jails for possible deportation.

    Her new policy raised ire from numerous fronts in a deeply red Texas. And, like recently sworn-in Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, Valdez quickly became the recipient of a letter from Gov. Greg Abbott with harsh criticism.

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    Abbott threatened Monday to cut off state criminal justice grant funding to Travis County unless Hernandez rescinds a policy that would limit detention requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would end ICE agents’ unfettered access to the Travis County Jail. Travis County received $1.8 million in criminal justice grant funding from the state last year.

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    Hernandez’s policy is more specific. According to Hernandez, the Travis County Jail will only honor ICE detention requests, or “detainers,” on people charged or convicted of capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking. All other detainer requests would require a court order or warrant.

    Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, called Hernandez’s policy the most progressive in the state. It comes closer to similar policies adopted in Colorado and Oregon.

    Hernandez had long promised to end Travis County’s cooperation with ICE. She announced her policy Friday as celebrations and protests of President Donald Trump’s inauguration were underway. In recent years, ICE has relaxed its policy on detaining undocumented immigrants at jails, but that could be changed with the stroke of a pen from Trump. Read more about Like in Travis County, Dallas County sheriff incurred Abbott’s wrath

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