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
On Sunday, presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for his first 100 days in office, which includes new mandatory minimum sentences for those who have crossed the border without documentation. These prosecutions already make up nearly half of all federal prosections annually.
The plan would create a "2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations."
Currently, illegal re-entry is punishable by up to two years in prison, although a prior criminal record can add more years to a sentence. Last year, Republicans in Congress introduced a bill called "Kate's Law," named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by a man with several violent felonies and illegal re-entries into the country. That bill would have also strengthened sentences for illegal re-entry, but advocacy groups that oppose mandatory minimums say Trump's proposal would go even further.
Illegal entry and re-entry is already one of the most prosecuted crimes in the U.S. and sucks up an enormous amount of federal resources. According to a report by Grassroots Leadership earlier this year, prosecutions of illegal entry and re-entry into the country already makes up 49 percent of the federal caseload every year. Foreign nationals make up 22 percent of the federal Bureau of Prisons system, which was operating at 20 percent over its maximum capacity as of 2015. The current average sentence for illegal re-entry is 18 months, according to the report.
What it [mandatory minimums] can make a statistically significant impact on is the Justice Department budget. The prosecution and incarceration of illegal entry and re-entry offenders under Operation Streamline has cost $7 billion since 2005, according to the Grassroots Leadership report.
A federal judge has ordered U.S. Immigration officials to stop requesting local law enforcement officials to detain certain people without warrant so they can determine their immigration status. This ruling adds to the already intense debate over so-called 'sanctuary cities', where local officials do not have a working connection with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), therefore creating a safe space for undocumented immigrants.
Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said that the ruling would begin by only affecting six Midwestern states, but he believes it will eventually apply everywhere, including Texas.
"We're not entirely sure what that's going to mean for some of the detainers that are issued here in Texas,” Libal said. "We also believe that the underlying assertion of the court is correct and that will have the impact of affecting other courts around the country."
The topic has become a major issue in the race for Travis County sheriff, where the Democratic candidate has vowed to end voluntary cooperation with ICE. Advocates said her stance would make Austin the state's first true sanctuary city. Libal says opposition to warrantless ICE holds has been growing in other parts of the state as well.
"In Dallas County, the sheriff said she wouldn't be honoring some detainers, and in Houston, there's been a very active campaign to try to convince elected officials there to end detainers,” Libal said. "We do believe that there seems to be growing momentum against these things."
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, Travis County legal scholars, advocates, and immigrant leaders responded to a federal district court order from the Northern District of Illinois that invalidated the federal government’s practice of issuing detainers against people in law enforcement custody. [node:read-more:link]
A proposal to impound vehicles for drivers with an invalid license without an arrest is in the works to go to the Austin city council.
The public safety commission, though, voted not to endorse the proposal in a 5-5 vote. Some commissioners voiced concerns it would disproportionately affect a group of people too much.
Immigration organizer Alejandro Caceres with Grassroots Leadership in Austin went further and said this would be an attack on the immigrant community.
“It feels like it is a way for the city of Austin if it does decide to move forward with this policy to push out undocumented immigrants out of this city,” Caceres said.
Caceres says the state does not allow undocumented immigrants to get a license. That’s why he wants the legislature instead to change that.
“We need to make sure that the people who are driving on our streets are qualified to drive so we need to be able to get drivers licenses,” Caceres said.
One commissioner did talk about proposing to the city council to have them lobby the legislature to get a bill like that passed. The commission said they’ll talk about that in their next meeting.
The proposal does not need an endorsement from the commission. Manley said they plan on taking it to the council in the next couple months.
WHAT: Protest at Austin Police Station asking for Chief Acevedo to meet with formerly detained immigrants and change the police manual
WHEN: Thursday, September 8th, 6:30 pm
WHERE: Austin Police station, 715 E. 8th St., Austin, Texas [node:read-more:link]
(AUSTIN, Texas) — In response to the Supreme Court decision in Texas vs US, the case of 26 Republican governors suing to block the deferred action programs announced in November 2014, immigrant communities in Austin are calling on local leaders here to go as far as possible to end deportations in Austin and Travis County. They join immigrant communities around the U.S. in calling for President Obama and DHS to take further action to stop deportations and for his potential successors to take up their call. [node:read-more:link]
La vida de un inmigrante sin documentos puede cambiar con un toque a la puerta, un toque a la puerte de un agente de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas o ICE por sus siglas en Inglés, puede ser lo que cambie toda nuestras vida para siempre. Para muchos inmigrantes ese toque a la puerta a sido como un golpe al corazon, sabiendo que ese dia puede sera el ultimo dia que van a ver a su familia. Sabiendo que ese agente tiene el poder de levantar a toda la familia, esposo, esposa, niños, niñas o a cualquier persona que encuentren en su casa que ellos piensen que no tengan documentos para llevarlos a un centro de detención y después deportarlos. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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.” [node:read-more:link]