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
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced at the beginning of this year that it would be intensifying its efforts to deport certain undocumented immigrants, Hilda Ramirez decided it was time to seek sanctuary.
Ramirez, who fled Guatemala in fear of her life, has been denied asylum. Her appeal of the initial denial was also rejected. Yet there is still hope that Ivan, who is now 10, will be granted asylum on appeal, explained Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership and coordinator of the ICE Out of Austin campaign. Additionally, Ramirez's attorney plans to file for a stay of removal, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from carrying out an order of deportation. Through "prosecutorial discretion," ICE has the authority to suspend deportation cases that are not priorities, such as immigrants who do not pose threats to national security, border security, and public safety. "We want Immigration to use the power they have to withhold Hilda's deportation because, clearly, she is not a priority," said Caceres. Read more about "Every Human Being Is Legal"
A ritmo de guitarra, Jim Rigby, el ministro de la iglesia presbiteriana Saint Andrew’s, animaba a cerca de medio centenar de activistas pro inmigrantes que se concentraron el jueves 24 frente al ayuntamiento de Austin para exigir apoyo para evitar la deportación de una inmigrante guatemalteca indocumentada y su hijo, quienes se refugiaron en el templo a inicios del mes pasado.
La acción también buscaba llamar la atención del Concejo Municipal, que estaba en sesión al momento de la protesta, y en especial del alcalde Steve Adler, para que promulgue una ordenanza que prohíba a la policía de Austin colaborar con ICE, en caso la agencia federal lo solicite.
“El alcalde puede detener el sufrimiento de muchas familias”, dijo Cáceres, en relación a que las deportaciones han separado a muchos hogares en el área.
Respecto a Ramírez y su hijo, Cáceres dijo que ellos se encuentran en buenas condiciones al interior de la iglesia y que permanecerán ahí hasta que ICE otorgue una Suspensión de Deportación, la cual le permita quedarse en el país. Read more about Grupos piden apoyo para guatemalteca refugiada en iglesia de Austin
Drawing about 40 people on a Saturday, the “Know Your Rights” meeting featured attorneys, who provided an overview of the federal immigration raids, and advocates, who shared instructions on what to do should a law enforcement officer show up unannounced. There’s no requirement to respond or let officials inside without a signed warrant, they said.
“Your name and your birthday — that’s all the information you have to give,” Alejandro Caceres, an immigration rights advocate with the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told the audience. Caceres, who donned an ICE T-shirt and paper badge to play an officer in an educational skit, assured meeting attendees that if they are inside their homes, they do not have to answer specific questions about immigration status. “You have the right not to say anything. You have the right to an attorney.” Read more about Raid Aid
Toward the end of Adler’s speech, a small group of protesters with ICE Out of Austin held up a sign that said “This great city deports” and began chanting “Less talk, more action.” They were escorted out of the room, with some in the audience yelling at them to shut up.
Alejandro Caceres, who was among the protesters, said they have tried to convince Adler to bring forward a resolution asking Austin police Chief Art Acevedo to cease communications with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, but with no success. Caceres said it’s clear the issue is not a priority to the mayor.
Adler told reporters after his speech that he has made his position on immigration clear. Last year, for instance, Adler joined the nonprofit Workers Defense Project in publicly calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to drop a lawsuit against an executive order from President Barack Obama that sought to provide protection from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants with children born in the U.S. Read more about Mayor Adler calls for taking risks as Austin grapples with growth
In his 2016 “State of the City” address last night, Mayor Steve Adler promised that Austin, Texas will do “big things” in the year to come.
However, the night was not without controversy. At one point near the end of his speech, protesters interrupted Adler with chants of, “Less talk, more action!” As they were escorted out, a member of the audience shouted back, “Less you, more us!”
A member of the group later told Austin.com that they were demonstrating to end deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The city has explored launching an ID program solely for Austin residents regardless of their immigration status, but Adler has stopped short of the group’s demand for a resolution ordering local law enforcement not to work with immigration officials.
“I am a strong supporter of our local law enforcement prioritizing their time and spending their time on our local issues, on our local safety concerns, and not being put in the position where they are called on to enforce national immigration policies,” Adler said in a recent public meeting with local immigration activists, according to The Austin Monitor. Read more about Adler Lays Out Progressive Agenda For 2016 In His 'State Of The City' Address
Austin is the most economically segregated metropolitan area in the country and Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Adler made affordability a direct target.
Close to the end of Mayor Adler's speech a group of protestors with the "Ice out of Austin" campaign, interrupted the address. After several minutes they were escorted out of the theater and Mayor Adler finished his speech. Read more about Mayor's 'State of the City' address targets affordability and mobility
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
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar and several immigrant rights groups gathered Saturday in North Austin to teach immigrants how to respond if they are targeted in federal raids.
“We believe that knowledge is power and we all have constitutional rights regardless of immigration status,” said Elissa Steglich, a UT immigration law professor.
Federal raids in January, she said, were part of an effort to deport thousands of women and children who crossed the border in the summer of 2014 to escape violence in Central American countries. Under those deportation orders, about 6,000 people in Texas are targeted, and nearly 80 percent of those will not have access to an immigration lawyer, she said.
“We see that the people who fall victim to these raids are those who do not know their rights or have the funds to pay for a lawyer,” Steglich told the crowd.
To address that, the training event played out scenarios involving an immigration official at an immigrant’s door. Organizers told the crowd that unless the official had a signed judge’s order, they don’t need to open the door. They also advised participants to withhold from speaking to the official until they are able to acquire a lawyer.
However, event organizers emphasized that people should never lie to an immigration official. They said immigrants could provide their name and date of birth if asked to identify themselves. But if asked to provide a Social Security number, ID card or other documents, they could defer to their lawyers, organizers said.
“You can also ask the official if you are under arrest,” said Alejandro Caceres of Grassroots Leadership. “If they say you are not, then you can simply walk away and avoid any other contact with them.” Read more about Rights advocates teach immigrants how to respond to threat of raids
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Immigrants and community members in Austin met Saturday afternoon to learn about deportation raids happening across the country.
Following a string of deportation raids happening in states such as Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, District 4 Council Member Gregorio Casar and others set up a meeting to help immigrants know what services are available, and for others to learn how they can help with the services.
“I think it’s really important for folks to hear what we’re hearing from the administration about whose being targeted by the raids, for people to know what their rights are if they encounter an immigration officer, and also for them to hear that our police department has committed that they are just going to be acting as police officers and not as immigration officers,” said Casar, “It’s so important for the immigrant community to be trusting of our police and for the police force to work with the immigrant community, and that people have separate in their minds the police force from ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement).”
According to Casar his district has the largest number of immigrants within the City of Austin. He says that they are working on establishing a hotline that people can call if they see an immigration raid in action so that the community can be informed.
Among others hosting the meeting were Grassroots Leadership, the ICE Out Campaign, and the University of Texas Immigration Clinic. Read more about Austin community discusses deportation raids