Austin Sanctuary Network

Jan 9, 2017
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Texas Observor

Activists Announce 'Sanctuary in the Streets' Ahead of Trump Inauguration

Immigrant advocates gathered Monday morning in Austin to announce what they’re calling “Sanctuary in the Streets” — a city-wide, direct-action network that plans to defend undocumented immigrants from deportation raids under the incoming Trump administration.

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Alejandro Caceres of Grassroots Leadership added that the group is training people to be “the physical barrier between ICE and the person they want to raid.” Caceres said the network, which is divided into 10 districts, will maintain a hotline, (512) 270-1515, where people can report a raid in progress. Trained volunteers in the area will then be summoned to stand between ICE agents and the immigrant or immigrants targeted by deportation.

Caceres told the Observer they don’t know yet how fast response times will be, but they will be holding a practice run soon. Caceres explained that ICE has no authority to arrest American citizens, so ICE officials would have to depend on local law enforcement officials to arrest the network’s volunteers, making operations more costly and difficult.

“If immigration [agents] want to be seen with police officers arresting a bunch of nice, older church folks, that’s fine,” added Caceres. “But the public is going to see it, and more and more people will get involved.”

The city of Austin and Travis County have also pledged to defend immigrants. In December, in anticipation of the Trump administration, the Austin City Council voted to “find emergency funds” to expand the capacity of legal organizations to serve an additional 100 immigrants per month, according to KXAN.

In November, Travis County voters also elected Sally Hernandez as sheriff. Hernandez has promised to end collaboration between ICE and the Travis County jail. Like many jails, Travis County currently honors ICE detainers — meaning it extends detention of undocumented immigrants at ICE’s request so the agency may potentially deport them.

“At the local level, we can fight proactively for policies we believe in,” said Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership. “But at the state level, it’s about fighting against policies that would discriminate against and harm the immigrant community.”

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The Sanctuary in the Streets effort is an extension of an existing sanctuary movementSince the 1980s, progressive churches have shielded immigrants and refugees from deportation by allowing them to live on their premises, taking advantage of a long-standing ICE policy of avoiding “sensitive locations.” The movement has experienced a resurgence since 2014.

The Austin Sanctuary Network has won relief from deportation for Sulma Francoand Hilda Ramirez — both Guatemalan women.

“We’re adding onto the existing model,” Caceres told the Observer. “We are expecting sweeps and raids under Trump, so we need to get out there and put our physical bodies on the line to stop people from getting picked up in the first place.” Read more about Activists Announce 'Sanctuary in the Streets' Ahead of Trump Inauguration

Jan 9, 2017
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The Daily Texan

Immigration rights groups organize day before state legislature convenes

Activist groups and supporters crowded in the Grassroots Leadership headquarters in east Austin, vowing to protect undocumented immigrants amidst an incoming state legislative session and president-elect Monday morning.

“We’re here today because we know that the next president-elect [Donald] Trump has promised mass deportations and human rights violations,” Grassroots Leadership executive director Bob Libal said.

Grassroots Leadership, ICE Out of Austin and Austin Sanctuary Network members laid out plans and pledged to support undocumented immigrants in the community during a press conference.

The ICE Out of Austin campaign is overseen by civil and human rights organization Grassroots Leadership. The campaign aims to end local and state law enforcement’s practice of holding onto detained undocumented or suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails until Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal agents come to process arrests and deport them.

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Sally Hernandez, Democrat and the new Travis County Sheriff who was sworn in Wednesday, has campaigned against holding onto undocumented immigrants until ICE agents arrive to arrest them. She replaced former Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, who has cooperated with ICE, according to the Texas Tribune.

Libal said he and other activists are awaiting an announcement from Hernandez explicitly stating her policy to refuse Travis County jails from complying with ICE.

“She’s promised a really progressive immigration policy that we think will … reduce detainers or eliminate … detainers in the Travis County jail,” Libal said. “We’re very much looking forward to the announcement that could come at any time.”

Austin City Council has defied state government sentiment to crackdown on immigration through actions such as enacting emergency funding to cover immigration legal fees.

State lawmakers, however, are pushing for stricter immigration laws. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s filed Senate Bill 4 outlaws “sanctuary cities” in Texas that adopt policies protecting undocumented immigrants.

Cristina Parker, immigration programs director of Grassroots Leadership, said it is an uphill battle when it comes to challenging state and federal oversight.

“We call on all state representatives and state senators to represent Travis County and the Austin area to stand with us,” Parker said. “Ultimately, this is really about us versus Trump. He has promised a campaign of terror against the immigrant community and we believe that the only way to fight back is locally.” Read more about Immigration rights groups organize day before state legislature convenes

Jan 9, 2017
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KVUE

Local groups announce plans to 'resist Trump-era immigration policies'

Local groups announced plans for "deportation defense" and "sanctuary in the streets" as well as local and state policies at a press conference Monday morning.

At the press conference, ICE Out of Austin, Austin Sanctuary Network, Grassroots Leadership and the American Civil Liberties Union spoke about plans to "resist Trump-era immigration policies." Read more about Local groups announce plans to 'resist Trump-era immigration policies'

Jan 9, 2017
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KXAN

Austin groups defending locals against Trump’s immigration policies

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several Texas groups say they plan to resist Donald Trump’s immigration policies here locally.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Sanctuary Network and the group ICE Out of Austin held a news conference on Monday morning. They talked about plans to defend people against deportation and how local and state policies can help their cause.

The immigration allies say the new Trump administration is fueled by hate and is quick to attack inherent human rights. Together they plan to build a foundation of resistance to impact policies and change. The conference announced their plans for Deportation Defense and Sanctuary in the Streets. Read more about Austin groups defending locals against Trump’s immigration policies

Oct 28, 2016
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Aljazeera

Guatemalans sheltering in US church avoid deportation

Mother and son win appeal against deportation order after taking sanctuary in a Texas church for eight months.

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In the back of the sanctuary sat Hilda Ramirez, a 28-year-old Guatemalan who fled her native country in 2014 with the hope of finding security for her son, Ivan.

At a time when immigration and mass deportations of undocumented people has become a central issue in the US presidential elections, Hilda and her son are a rare example of a successful appeal against a deportation order. 

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There are at least four people who have been granted sanctuary in four churches in the US, according to the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership immigrant rights advocacy group.

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Read more about Guatemalans sheltering in US church avoid deportation
Oct 26, 2016
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Texas Observor

Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement

A Guatemalan mom and son who have been living in Sanctuary in Austin have finally received a form of deportation relief for the next year. Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan had been living in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for the past 8 months under threat of deportation back to Guatemala. Hilda and her son came to the U.S. in August of 2014 seeking asylum, and spent the next 11 months in the for-profit Karnes Family Residential Facility. Hilda and Ivan were then released from Karnes due to a separate Special Immigrant Juvenile status that Ivan applied for, and because a federal judge had recently ruled against prolonged family detention. 

The two were living at an Austin-area shelter in January when the Obama administration announced a new set of removal priorities that targeted adults who entered the United States with children after May 2014. Despite Ivan’s ongoing application, an order of deportation remained active for both of them.

That’s when Ramirez connected with organizers at Austin’s Grassroots Leadership and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where she and Ivan took sanctuary, invoking a long-standing practice in which places of worship house and advocate for immigrants, taking advantage of ICE’s policy of avoiding “sensitive locations.”

Eight months later, ICE informed the family’s lawyer that they would receive relief from deportation in the form of deferred action, which protects them for one year before they must renew the status.

“This is an important step,” said Grassroots’ immigration organizer Alejandro Caceres, “but we need to see more faith communities like St. Andrew’s standing up and saying to ICE: ‘You’ll have to get through us first.’”

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Advocates, explained Caceres, had been demanding a stay of removal, a form of relief designed for immigrants who have exhausted all of their legal options and which ICE has granted to other immigrants in sanctuary. Instead, ICE granted deferred action, which is normally given to those who never went through deportation proceedings. A key difference is that Ramirez and her son will not have to attend regular ICE check-ins.

“I can only think it was the community pressure,” Caceres told the Observer, “and they just wanted to make us leave them alone.” It remains uncertain whether ICE will grant the same relief in similar cases going forward. Caceres added that the Austin movement will continue to push for permanent cancellation of removal in the case.

Read more about Guatemala Mom, Son Win Surprise Victory for Sanctuary Movement
Oct 25, 2016
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KVUE

Austin woman and son granted deferred action

For the first time in two years, an Austin immigrant says she no longer has a fear of deportation.

Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan had been living in sanctuary at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church for the past 8 months after fleeing violence in her home country of Guatemala. During that time they had been fighting for asylum here in the United States.  

Last Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  granted Hilda and Ivan a deferred action, allowing them to leave sanctuary as the federal government has delayed her deportation decision for one more year. 

“She is able to apply for a work permit, in that year,” said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer with Grassroots Leadership, an organization that fights to stop for-profit incarceration. “Able to be in the United States, have an ID, have a social security and able to work and immigration has promised not to deport her."

Hilda is now able to enjoy time in public with her son, such as going to the park and seeing him play soccer. Her asylum status is still pending.  Read more about Austin woman and son granted deferred action

Apr 29, 2016
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The Austin Chronicle

"Every Human Being Is Legal"

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.

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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"

Mar 25, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Grupos piden apoyo para guatemalteca refugiada en iglesia de Austin

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.

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Read more about Grupos piden apoyo para guatemalteca refugiada en iglesia de Austin

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