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 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
On Monday, immigration activists demanded to see Mayor Steve Adler. It happened after a walk out at the Public Safety Council meeting where law enforcement gave the council an update on its policy of arresting illegal immigrants.
The ICE out of Austin group walked up the city hall steps to the mayor's office. They want the mayor to draft a resolution that stops Austin Police from working with ICE. Read more about Immigration activists confront mayor about Austin deportations
Hilda Ramirez, 28, and her 9-year-old son fled violence in Guatemala and were taken into custody as soon as they crossed the border. They were held at an immigration center southeast of San Antonio for 11 months.
Ramirez and her son now live at a shelter in Austin. She said she is in constant fear they could get deported at any time, especially if a police officer notifies immigration officials.
“I suffered a lot there, I came to ask you for help,” Ramirez told Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Monday.
Ramirez and two dozen members of ICE out of Austin, an immigrant advocacy group, gathered at City Hall and asked Adler to pass a resolution to ban Austin police from communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The group is accusing police officers of asking people about their immigration status and sharing information with federal authorities.
“There’s not a lot related to national immigration policy that is in city’s hands. What’s is in our hands is the conduct of our law enforcement and police,” Adler said. “If there are people in the community not treated well, I want those people to come to me so I can do something about it.”
At Monday’s Public Safety Committee, Police Chief of Staff Brian Manley said Austin is not a sanctuary city but highlighted that his officers are focused on crime fighting rather than asking people about immigration status.
In a letter, the group acknowledged Adler’s support to the immigrant community but highlighted the lack of action from city officials to stop deportation.
“We cannot accept any more delays because inaction on deportations locally means Austin families will continue to be separated,” the letter states. Read more about Immigration advocates rally at Mayor Adler’s office, demand action
Un grupo de activistas de la organización ICE out of Austin/ICE Fuera De Austin se reunió el lunes a las afueras de la oficina del Alcalde Steve Adler para pedir un fin a la colaboración de la policía local con el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas o ICE.
“Queremos que él tenga acciones con respecto a esto el solamente tiene que decirle a la policía no vas a cooperar con inmigración”, dijo Carmen Zuvieta, quien junto a otros miembros del grupo pidieron que la oficina del alcalde haga todo en su poder para detener las deportaciones en Austin. “A mi me da miedo por todos los demás es un trauma que llevas no sólo por mí por mis hijos por los demás es dolor adentro”.
Los activistas presionaron a Adler para que desarrolle una resolución y que le ponga una fecha a su aprobación.
“Sólo basta que el haga acciones porque ya promesas ya nos cansamos, ya esperamos”, dijo Zuvieta. Read more about Activistas piden que autoridades de Austin no colaboren con ICE
ICE Out of Austin – a group pushing for local law enforcement to no longer cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain or deport undocumented immigrants – arrived outside of Adler’s office shortly before 5:30 p.m., belting out chants in English and Spanish and demanding a meeting with the mayor. Group leader Alejandro Caceres rejected an offer from a mayoral aide to meet with Adler in his office, saying that group members wanted the meeting to be public.
Adler responded that he was unsure whether a resolution was “the best way” to offer protections to the community.
“But we’re telling you that it is the best way, actually,” responded Caceres. “We’re telling you that we’re tired of families getting deported, we’re tired of politicians saying we have to be patient.”
“We see you as an ally and a friend, Mayor Adler, but if you’re telling us that you’re not going to put forward a resolution, then you stand with ICE and deportations,” Caceres added. “There is no gray line.” Read more about Immigrant rights activists confront mayor over deportations
WHAT: An Austin people’s hearing on the local deportation crisis
WHO: The ICE Out of Austin campaign members
WHEN: Monday, January 25, 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: City of Austin City Hall Atrium, 301 W 2nd St. Read more about Austin’s immigrant community to hold a people’s hearing on deportations at Austin City Hall
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar and several community groups will host a “Know Your Rights” training in response to immigration raids being conducted nationally by the federal government to deport people in the country illegally.
At the training, which will be hosted by Casar, Grassroots Leadership, ICE Out of Austin and the UT Immigration Clinic, attendees will be trained on how to interact with immigration officials and will be educated on what rights they have under the law, a news release from Casar’s office said.
When: Saturday, Jan. 30, from 2-3 p.m.
Where: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 11201 Parkfield Drive, Austin, TX 78758 Read more about Council member, community groups to host event on immigration raids
A coalition of attorneys and immigrant rights groups is suing 10 federal agencies over withholding documents related to how the Obama administration is dealing with deporting alleged criminal immigrants.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School, alleges the agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office of Immigration Review, have violated public records laws for not releasing information about implementing the Priority Enforcement Program, also known as PEP. The program is intended to prioritize the deportation of what government officials have called “the worst of the worst.”
"ICE is, once again, operating in secrecy. It's time for the nation's largest police force to come clean," said NDLON executive director Pablo Alvarado.
Some groups in Texas maintain the policy change hasn’t made any difference, despite federal officials' promises that PEP would be less sweeping.
“The deportation rate in Travis County, Texas, home to so-called liberal oasis Austin, continues to be one of the highest in the state and the U.S. An average of 19 people a week are deported from Travis County,” said Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit group opposed to Secure Communities and PEP, in a statement in July. The group posted on its website a video clip of Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton telling county commissioners that PEP was, in essence, the same as Secure Communities and “all [the government] did was change the name.” Read more about Activists Sue 10 Federal Agencies Over Secrecy in Deporting Alleged Criminals
As we finish up 2015, we thought we’d reflect on the year at Grassroots Leadership. We’ve had a terrific year of work and it couldn’t have been possible without the hard work and support of our staff, board, volunteers, allies, and donors. Please consider making a donation to help our work continue in 2016. Thank you, we couldn’t do it without you! Read more about The year in review: 15 highlights of 2015 at Grassroots Leadership!