Austin— More than a dozen local and national pro-immigrant rights organizations along with impacted community members held a virtual press conference Tuesday morning to condemn the state’s unfounded lawsuit to halt the Biden Administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations and to call on the Biden Administration to exercise its full power and defend the legality of the moratorium.
On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit in federal court in Victoria, Texas in an attempt to stop the immigration memorandum issued by the Acting DHS Secretary on January 20, 2021. The memorandum, among other things, calls for a moratorium on deportations for 100 days and directs DHS agencies to conduct a much-needed comprehensive review of enforcement policies and priorities.
Judge Tipton has not yet ruled on the State of Texas’s request for a temporary restraining order, but advocates expect a decision to come any day now. Should Judge Tipton grant the TRO, it will allow the state of Texas to dictate federal immigration policy and temporarily stop the Biden administration from providing relief to millions of immigrants after four long years of racist attacks and blatant abuse by the Trump Administration and ICE.
Advocates noted that this is not the first time Texas has exploited anti-immigrant sentiments to drive lawsuits that attack undocumented communities in this nation, such as in the previous DACA and DAPA lawsuits. Today, grassroots groups and undocumented communities in Texas say enough and will not stand and watch this state put the relief of millions at risk. Not only should the Biden Administration exercise its full power to defend the legality of the memorandum, Texas legislators and congressional representatives must call on Attorney General Paxton to drop this baseless lawsuit.
The organizations in today’s press conference include Grassroots Leadership, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Detention Watch Network, ICE Out of Austin, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Laredo Immigrant Alliance, LatinoJustice-PRLDEF, Mijente, Mujeres Luchadoras, Texas Advocates for Justice, Texas Fair Defense Project, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Organizing Project, RAICES, Workers Defense Project, Workers Defense Action Fund, and the Waco Immigrants Alliance.
Below are the statements from the organizations participating in today’s press conference.
Annette Price, Co-Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, said: “This is not new to us. Our state government constantly uses and weaponizes the law to maintain the oppressive and white supremacist status quo—whether it be on public health matters and their effort to continue putting us at risk and keeping us from necessary resources; or criminal justice matters as we have seen them do through the COVID crisis where state prisoners have died by the hundreds due to their insistence in punishment; or in this instance, where their hatred towards immigrants are fueling their every move. But our communities have been fighting back. We see our own beauty and worth. And the more the state orients toward death, the more we push back to orient toward life. Enough is enough. It was people like us from all over the country who fought for the moratorium, and it is us who will defend it.”
Zenobia Lai, Executive Director of Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, said: “We applaud the Biden Administration’s initiative to put a pause on most deportation. For too long, black and brown immigrant families have been torn apart by racist criminal system that fed the detention-deportation pipeline. The lawsuit filed by A.G. Paxton aimed to derail President Biden’s initiative to fix our immigration system is frivolous and is nothing short of a racist act. A.G. Paxton knew, or should have known, that the agreement he cited to support the lawsuit was unenforceable, since it was signed by Ken Cuccinelli whose appointment to his position was found to be illegal by a federal court last March. That agreement is void and the lawsuit should be dismissed immediately.”
Liz Castillo, Organizer at Detention Watch Network, said: “The Texas lawsuit represents nothing more than a shameful attempt to behold the new administration and communities across the country unto the failed and deathly policies of the last administration. For years now, people inside of detention have sounded the alarm on the dangers posed by ICE’s negligence and abuse. With the compounded dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be focusing on protecting and expanding the moratorium while releasing people from detention and shutting down detention facilities immediately.”
Miriam J., ICE Out of Austin member, said: “I am an undocumented immigrant as well as my parents. My husband was deported last year, and my children, who are American citizens, have also been impacted due to the constant persecution against my community. These attacks are putting us once again in danger, and it is not fair what's happening to us. As a community, we must stay united against the attacks made by Texas officials to stop the relief our communities deserve and continue fighting for our safety and dignity.”
Anita Gupta, Staff Attorney, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said: “Texas lacks standing to bring this lawsuit and is basing it on an invalid agreement signed with the Department of Homeland Security during the waning days of the Trump administration. That agreement was put in place to preserve Trump’s countless racist policies against immigrants, and deprive the Biden administration of policymaking authority. This lawsuit is nothing but a meritless show of allegiance to racist, white supremacist policies. We call on Judge Tipton to end this farce now. We demand dignity, respect, and protection for immigrants from every branch and level of government.”
Ilse Méndez, Laredo Immigrant Alliance member, said: “The actions of the governor only serve to continue inciting a negative and racist narrative rather than addressing the devastating issues our Texas towns are facing especially in our border towns where we have a lack of hospital capacity and medical care professionals to support this ongoing surge. This should be the priority of the state government. Undocumented continue to face fear and anxiety while still trying to sustain thier families with no support.“
Jorge Renaud, Regional Director of Policy and Advocacy, LatinoJustice-PRLDEF, said: "The retaliatory actions from Atty. General Paxton are the latest attempts by him and other Trump acolytes to dehumanize the Latinx communities by criminalizing their very right to exist. We raise our voice in protest at these desperate appeals to continue Trump's racist ideologies."
Marisa Franco, Executive Director, Mijente, said: "This Texas lawsuit represents nothing more than the last gasps of a racist, xenophobic presidential administration that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on the criminalization of immigrants, dehumanized vulnerable migrants, and swelled already-overcrowded jails and prisons. The Biden administration understands that we must undo the damage President Trump has done to our immigrant community and our national character, and we strongly support its deportation moratorium and commitment to a thorough audit of the practices and policies of the Department of Homeland Security. Today, we ask that the administration double down on its commitment to righting the wrongs of President Trump and exercise its full power in defending the legality of its memorandum.”
Sonia A., Mujeres Luchadoras member, said: "I have been fighting for my family and myself for 5 years to not be deported, and we are tired that Texas is a racist and discriminatory place. That is why I am here calling on all politicians, businessmen, and leaders of faith to please do something so that what the new President Biden has proposed can be fulfilled."
David Johnson, Organizer, Texas Advocates for Justice, said: "Texas Advocates for Justice fights in solidarity with the people most-directly harmed by these white supremacist and xenophobic attempts to deny the human right to migration and self-determination."
Montserrat Garibay, Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, said: “Our state’s latest lawsuit seeking to continue a broken deportation machinery at the expense of immigrants is heartless. Texas must stop scapegoating immigrant workers. The Texas AFL-CIO stands with ALL workers. Until immigrant workers have a fair shot that protects their workplace rights instead of generating fear, all workers will suffer.”
Amelia Casas, Policy Analyst with the Texas Fair Defense Project, said: "At TFDP, we stand in solidarity with directly impacted immigrants, organizers and advocates across the state to ensure that vulnerable immigrants are protected and treated with the humanity and dignity to which every Texan is entitled.”
Damaris Gonzalez, Immigrants’ Rights Community Organizer with Texas Organizing Project said: “We need our elected officials at all levels of government to step into their power to protect immigrant families from this blatant partisan attack from Ken Paxton that seeks to further dehumanize us. TOP will also keep pushing our elected officials in Washington to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit the millions of families who are still living right now with uncertainty in the shadows.
Ken Paxton, listen carefully: We aren’t going anywhere. We are undocumented, unapologetic, and we are here to stay!”
Emily Timm, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Workers Defense Action Fund, said: "We turned a new leaf by ushering in the Biden Administration, but it was inevitable that Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott would buckle down on their efforts to preserve Trump’s racist and hate-filled agenda to further dehumanize and criminalize immigrant communities. These attacks demonstrate the real threat that Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott are to our democracy--not immigrants--and we must vigorously reject their efforts."
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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.