#ICEOutofAustin

Jul 18, 2017
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ColorLines

The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

The Waller County (Texas) Jail was recently approved for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program—despite failing its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reached an agreement with Waller County to deputize the sheriff’s office for the controversial immigration enforcement program 287(g). Theprogram authorizes deputies to act on the behalf of ICE to arrest and detain people based on their immigration status. In turn, county officials are given broad powers to jumpstart deportation proceedings for immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t have been on the radar of federal agents.

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The Waller County Jail was required to revamp its protocols and provide additional medical care in the wake of Bland’s death. Yet even after those reforms were implemented, major problems continued to persist.

The county jail came under investigation in March after a female prisoner alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a man who was also incarcerated in the jail. The man was performing cleaning duties for the jail at the time of the alleged incident. County officials later acknowledged that the inmate was never authorized to take on those duties in the first place.

The jail later failed its inspection with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, state documents show. Jail staff was found non-compliant in three separate areas, including violations for not keeping male and female inmates separate at all times, unless under direct supervision.

Within days of both the assault and the failed inspection, ICE officials formally approved Waller County’s application to join 287(g).

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Texas activists are now concerned that the program’s loaded background doesn’t help Waller County’s already strained relations between police and people of color. Despite all that the community has been through, particularly after Bland’s death, it’s unclear whether officials have learned their lesson, says Bob Libal, executive director of the Texas-based civil rights groupGrassroots Leadership.

“What 287(g) does is literally turn local police into deportation agents,” Libal added. “That’s obviously profoundly disturbing and certainly seeds distrust with law enforcement.” Read more about The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

Jul 14, 2017
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The Austin Chronicle

Narrowly Evading Deportation Over July Fourth Weekend

Thursday, June 29, began like any other day for the Guerrero family. Martin Guer­rero Alvarado, the patriarch, left early for work at his construction firm. His daughter Alicia hopped in her car a half-hour later, and went off to her internship at theGrassroots Leadership office in East Austin, 45 minutes outside her family's home in Dripping Springs.

But a mile into her drive, Alicia noticed that a Hays County Sheriff's deputy had pulled someone over. It caught her eye because the vehicle, she told theChronicle, looked like her father's truck. As she got closer, the 26-year-old graduate student saw her father handcuffed next to his truck.

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Guerrero Alvarado expected to be released from the Hays County Jail in San Marcos within 48 hours. After all, a Hays County judge had already waived his bail bond, and all he would need to do, he was told, was make a court appearance and be free to go.

"But that didn't happen," he said. Instead, he was placed on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold, though he was in the process of obtaining legal residency. Per department policy, the HCSO had notified the federal agency of his undocumented status – information Guer­rero Alvarado offered, noted HCSO spokesperson Lt. Dennis Gutierrez. (Under the Secure Communities program, ICE automatically gets fingerprints of people who've been arrested or booked, then uses that information to determine whether it will take enforcement action.) ICE requested a detainer, which the HCSO honored.

Immigration rights activists say Guerrero Alvarado's situation is indicative of what will happen once Senate Bill 4 – the anti-immigration legislation signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May – takes effect Sept. 1. SB 4 would require local law enforcement agencies to comply with otherwise optional ICE detainer requests, as well as letting officers question a person's immigration status when they're detained – like, say, during a traffic stop. Opponents say that last provision of the law codifies racial profiling, and will also lead to hundreds of thousands more immigrants being arrested, detained, and deported from the United States, a country they call home.

"This is the kind of case that we expect to see all the time under SB 4," said Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. "Immigrant families have a lot to lose."

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But to his family, ICE's timing seemed off. According to detainer policy, an immigrant booked or arrested at a local jail is taken into ICE custody within 48 hours after their detainment, not including weekends or holidays. Since Guerrero Alvarado's bond was waived on Friday, and the Fourth of July fell that following Tuesday, ICE agents should have scheduled his pickup for the morning of Wednesday, July 5.

At least that's what Alicia, her family's immigration attorney, and members of Grassroots Leadership deduced from ICE's own policy. "Monday and Wednesday. It would have been those two days," Alicia said. "We just immediately underwent this shock. We didn't know what to do."

That Saturday, Alicia, her family, and Grassroots Leader­ship held a protest outside of the Hays County Jail, demanding Guerrero Alvarado's release. Grassroots also organized hundreds of calls and emails to Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler objecting to Guerrero Alvarado's detainer.

A few hours after the protest ended, ICE dropped its hold on Guerrero Alvarado without explanation. Though his release is the "outcome that we hoped for," said Carson, "it still came as a surprise. It's very rare that ICE would release someone after requesting a detainer." Read more about Narrowly Evading Deportation Over July Fourth Weekend

Jul 1, 2017
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KVUE

Hays County man released after ICE detainer issue

What started out as a traffic stop and an ICE detainer issue ended with a Hays County father reunited with his family after hundreds protested for his release.

A rally held was outside the Hays County Sheriff's Department Saturday morning in efforts to free Martin Guerrero. He was pulled over Thursday, June 29, for rolling through a stop sign. When the officer learned that Guerrero had no driver's license, only a Mexico ID, he was arrested.

“I have neighbors who have been stopped, were asked for an ID, did not have one and were not arrested, weren’t even given a citation,” his daughter Alicia Guerrero said.

Plans were made to transfer him to an ICE detention center Sunday morning.

Protestors stood outside the jail Saturday afternoon, demanding for his release after a Hays County Judge had already waived his bond.

Hours later, the ICE hold was dropped, Guerrero received a warning, and he was let go.

His family says they are "thankful beyond belief."

Still, the community says they continue to live in fear as Sept 1 approaches, putting the "show me your papers" bill into law.

"Unfortunately many sheriffs in Texas do honor these requests, but they don't have to. Not only does it have the impact of breaking up families and communities, it also has an impact of putting the county at risk for being sued,” Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal said.

Last week, two court hearings took place in San Antonio and here in Austin to discuss the constitutionality of SB4, and if it's appropriate for the State to file a case on a law that hasn't gone into effect yet, and therefore hasn't been violated. Read more about Hays County man released after ICE detainer issue

Jun 1, 2017
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The Austin Monitor

Here's what we learned about requests from ICE to pick up Travis County inmates

Drunken driving. Property theft. Possession of a controlled substance.

These are some of the crimes for which the Travis County Sheriff’s Office did not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain suspected undocumented immigrants past their sentences or dispositions.

Records obtained by KUT News show that while Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy regarding ICE detainers is largely being applied as laid out, in a couple of cases it was applied inconsistently, specifically when it concerned reoffenders.

On February 1, Hernandez’s policy went into effect: She would honor ICE detainer requests only if someone had been charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault or human trafficking, or had been convicted of these crimes in the past. She also maintained the ability to assess requests on a case-by-case basis. Later, the sheriff expanded her policy to include crimes committed against children and the elderly.

In a second case, an 18-year-old man was accused of organized criminal activity. Travis County declined the ICE detainer request placed on him, and he was released from jail on a personal recognizance bond, or no-cost bond.

A month later, in April, he was again booked into the Travis County Jail, this time on a home burglary charge. Travis County honored a second ICE detainer request placed on the man and he was released to federal immigration agents. Dark said the man’s escalating criminal activity might explain the decision to turn him over to ICE – but when she spoke with KUT she did not have the notes in front of her from the captain who made the decision.

Bob Libal, executive director of the immigrants’ rights group Grassroots Leadership, said he’s concerned by these inconsistencies.

“I do think that it raises concerns if the policy is not being followed,” he said.

“It’s really disappointing to hear,” said Amy Fischer, policy director at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, when told about the few inconsistencies in the application of Hernandez’s policy. “She’s gained a lot of political brownie points as someone who’s claiming to stand up for the immigrant community, and it shows that when push comes to shove that she’s laying down to the federal government.”

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While Hernandez’s policy states that she maintains the right to assess ICE detainers on a case-by-case basis, most of the charges for which people were released to ICE fell below the threshold Hernandez set in her policy. They included charges of DUI, home burglary, domestic violence, manufacture and delivery of a drug, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and sexual abuse of a child.

An oft-overlooked portion of Hernandez’s policy is the consideration of criminal history. In the case that someone committed one of the three violent felonies she set – murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking – the ICE detainer placed on them would be honored.

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Libal with Grassroots Leadership and Fischer with RAICES said they were concerned from the beginning to learn that Hernandez’s policy included the intent to honor any ICE detainers.

“Obviously, it’s good news that we have a dramatic reduction in the number of immigration detainers in our community,” Libal said. “But it doesn’t solve many of the issues that were raised by (detainers), including constitutional issues. It doesn’t matter what the criminal charge is. The sheriff is agreeing to honor a detainer that does not come with any backing of a warrant.” Read more about Here's what we learned about requests from ICE to pick up Travis County inmates

May 7, 2017
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The Austin Chronicle

Abbott Signs "Sanctuary Cities" Bill into Law

Without warning Sunday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4 into law.

Offering no notice to media until after he signed the bill, Abbott only issued a press release and a video of himself via Facebook defending the legislation that attacks so-called “sanctuary cities." (The term carries no legal definition but refers to, in the eyes of Abbott, any municipality that isn't acting in lockstep with federal immigration policy.) The clandestine move assured no major citizen-led protests or demonstrations – like the all day sit-in at his offices last week – would prevent the governor from ushering the “Show Me Your Papers” bill into law.

"It seems fitting that Greg Abbott would sign this disgraceful bill on the internet on a Sunday night, far from the press and the public,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “But we will not be bullied by this law. Communities across the state are vowing that the resistance to SB 4 is only just beginning."

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SB 4 imposes civil and criminal penalties on law enforcement leaders who fail to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests and allows police to inquire about immigration status of those that they detain. The law also allows the removal of any elected or appointed official who does not comply with the law. Two weeks ago the Texas House held a 16-hour debate on SB 4, where Democrats sought unsuccessfully to soften the extreme piece of legislation, before sending it to the Senate for final approval. The bill is often cited as racist and unconstitutional, and stood as one of Abbott’s major legislative priorities this session. Barring a court challenge, SB 4 will become law Sept. 1. Read more about Abbott Signs "Sanctuary Cities" Bill into Law

May 1, 2017
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The Austin Chronicle

Protesters Stage Sit-in at Governor's Office to Oppose Sanctuary Cities Bill

Texas Department of Public Safety officers handcuffed then released at least 18 activists, including CM Greg Casar and Austin Pastor Jim Rigby, after they refused to leave the governor’s offices today. Following an all-day sit-in and protest against anti-immigrant bill SB 4, DPS officers forced journalists to exit the building when it closed at 5pm or face arrest, and blocked the entrance.

Inside, officers gave the protestors a verbal warning then began issuing Class B misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing. Those that did not leave after being cited were tied with plastic cuffs and processed by Judge Nicholas Chu. Event organizers said DPS officers “lied” by telling protesters their attorneys were not allowed in, a rule contradicted by Chu. Just before 7pm, the protestors were released from cuffs by DPS and addressed a growing crowd outside.

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Early Monday morning, during a brief press conference organized by Grassroots Leadership at the south gates of the Capitol, Rigby delivered a message to his undocumented neighbors: “We love you and want you here. We would rather suffer by your side than be guilty bystanders to the cruel and undemocratic tyranny of this administration.”

Afterward, protestors marched with handmade signs to the steps of the governor’s office. They entered and took a defiant seat in the middle of the lobby, announcing they would not budge until Abbott kills the bill. The group chanted: “SB 4 is hate! SB 4 is racist!” and “The people united will never be divided!” in between songs and speeches that castigated the legislation as “unconstitutional” and “unjust.” The sit-in, organized by Grassroots Leadership, RAICESICE Out of AustinSanctuary in the Streets, and Austin Sanctuary Network, began at roughly 10am.

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After roughly one hour, protestors linked arm-in-arm and blocked both entrances of the building. Immigration attorneys started leading teach-ins about the impact of SB 4 around 1pm. Texas Department of Public Safety officers, while watching the event, have yet to threaten arrest. Read more about Protesters Stage Sit-in at Governor's Office to Oppose Sanctuary Cities Bill

May 1, 2017
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The Houston Chronicle

Protesters stage sit-in at governor's office over 'sanctuary cities' bill

Roughly 100 people occupied the lobby of the state office building that houses the governor's office Monday demanding Gov. Greg Abbott veto a bill that would allow law enforcement officers across the state to inquire about individuals' citizenship.

With many wearing t-shirts calling for the rejection of the controversial Senate Bill 4 -- the "sanctuary cities" measure -- that passed the Texas House last week, the crowd sang and chanted in Spanish and English phrases like "You shall not pass" and "this entrance is closed" as they locked arms to block people from entering the building.

"SB4 is racist," they chanted as a woman shook a set of green maracas.

They said they planned to stay in the lobby of the building until the governor acquiesces to their request, he rejects the bill or until they forcibly are removed.

"They're going to have to drag us out of here or lock us in the building at the end of the day. We're not leaving," said Cristina Parker, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a group focused on detention and deportation.

The sit-in was put on by Grassroots Leadership and RAICES, a refugee and immigration education and legal advocacy group. Read more about Protesters stage sit-in at governor's office over 'sanctuary cities' bill

May 1, 2017
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The Daily Texan

Protesters participate in sit-in demanding Gov. Greg Abbott to not sign 'sanctuary cities' bill

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About 50 people blocked the entrance to the State Insurance Building on Monday and demanded Gov. Greg Abbott veto the bill he has vowed to sign once it reaches his desk. During the sit-in, about 20 protesters ­— including Austin city council man Greg Casar — were given citations for trespassing, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The sit-in was organized by advocacy groups including Workers Defense Project and Grassroots Leadership. A few streets away, chants of “How do we build sanctuary? Student workers’ solidarity” resonated during an International Workers’ Day rally and walk-out at the UT Tower.

Members of the UT community demanded the UT administration declare and establish UT as a “sanctuary campus” protecting its undocumented students. Read more about Protesters participate in sit-in demanding Gov. Greg Abbott to not sign 'sanctuary cities' bill

May 1, 2017
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Austin Council Member greg

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar along with nearly two dozen other people were arrested and cited for criminal trespassing after they staged a sit-in to protest Senate Bill 4 at Gov. Greg Abbott’s office Monday afternoon.

Immigrant community members, faith leaders and other elected officials were at the Texas State Capitol to protest the so-called sanctuary cities bill, which is expected to head to Abbott’s desk in a few weeks. The protest was organized to urge Abbott to veto the legislation when it gets to his desk. But if he does sign the bill into law, the group says they will continue with protests in the streets.

Once the protesters were removed from the building, the group started chanting: “Down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation.”

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Despite passionate pleas from Democrats to stop SB 4, Republicans had the votes to push the measure through last week. During the heated debate, supporters managed to beef up the bill from the original version. House members approved anamendment from Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, that gives police more leeway to ask about a person’s legal status. It lets a police officer ask about a person’s immigration status while they’re being detained. Some departments currently limit officers to asking those questions only after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime. Read more about Austin Council Member greg

May 1, 2017
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KVUE

Council member Greg Casar, protesters arrested after sit-in at Governor's office

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar was among 18 protestors who were arrested Monday evening and issued citations for criminal trespassing after staging a sit-in at Governor Greg Abbott's business office.

The group staged a sit-in at the office after a morning protest at the south gate of the Capitol to speak against Senate Bill 4 (SB4).

The bill, which was passed by the Senate in February and the House of Representatives last week, will require all Texas law enforcement honor ICE detainers.

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Governor Abbott made banning "sanctuary cities" an emergency item during his State of the State address, indicating his plans to support legislation like SB4. But the protestors are asking him to instead veto the bill

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Troopers informed the group they would be cited for criminal trespassing and asked them to leave peacefully, saying they did not want to arrest them, but the protestors sat unmoved.

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Casar said he and the protestors were told because of the capacity of the jail, the magistrate had come to them. The group was processed, received citations, then released.  Read more about Council member Greg Casar, protesters arrested after sit-in at Governor's office

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