As Austin’s Freedom City Policy Goes Into Effect Today, Organizers Explain Why It Matters

November 1, 2018

The policy, passed in June this year, is designed to reduce racial disparities and end discretionary arrests while ensuring immigrants’ rights during encounters with police

WATCH: Facebook Live Video featuring Grassroots Leadership organizers Alicia Torres and Chris Harris, explaining the policy, what it means for Austin, and what comes next

AUSTIN — Today the city’s Freedom City policy, the first of it’s kind, goes into effect. The Freedom City policy is a pair of local resolutions that address problems facing immigrants and communities of color in Austin.  

In a Facebook Live Video this afternoon, Grassroots Leadership organizers Alicia Torres and Chris Harris outline what the policy is and how the community needs to stay engaged and vigilant as implementation is rolled out. “This is a good first step in what should be many more local reforms to reduce the impact of mass incarceration and mass deportation on our community,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.

It was passed on June 14, when more than a hundred people signed up to testify before Austin’s City Council in favor of the Freedom City policy.  Community members spoke for hours about the crisis people of color and immigrants in Austin face as they are drastically overrepresented in arrests, jailings, and removal from the community, all of which tear families apart.

Hundreds of Austinites called and petitioned their council members in support of the policy, including members of Grassroots Leadership, Texas Advocates for Justice, Workers Defense Project, and United We Dream.

The policy was made up of two resolutions.  Resolution 73 charges the City of Austin to reduce racial disparities in arrests and eliminate the low-level arrests that the Austin Police Department doesn’t have to make in the first place. Arrests for low-level charges contribute to racial disparities in the Travis County Jail. Under SB 4, they are also a ticket to detention and deportation.

Resolution 74 directs the City of Austin to create policies that create protections for immigrant community members and their constitutional rights under SB 4, including requiring that police officers who ask about immigration status also inform people of their right to not answer. It also requires officers to complete a report explaining the encounter and the circumstances leading them to ask for immigration status.

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.

Contact: 

Cristina Parker, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111