Feb 18, 2017
Austin American-Statesman

In 'sanctuary' fight, a new question of justice emerges

When Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore was alerted to the case against Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez, accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl and targeted by federal immigration agents, she had a clear vision for his future.

She wanted to take him to trial on the most serious felony charge possible.

Then see him do time.

And then — and only then — possibly see him expelled from the country.

As the battle over so-called sanctuary cities continues, Moore’s pursuit exposes what has been a largely unexamined dimension of whether Texas sheriffs should be bound to hold inmates for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation: What happens to the original cases that landed those suspects in jail?


Bob Libal, executive director of the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership, said, “The immigration system actually can interfere with the criminal justice system. Not having immigration involved helps the criminal justice system carry out its duties, whereas when you mix immigration and criminal justice, you end up not doing justice by anybody.”

After collecting inmates from local jails across the state, federal authorities often offer suspects a chance to leave the country voluntarily, and many immigrants, especially those without adequate legal representation, do so, said Jose “Chito” Vela III, an immigration and criminal defense attorney in Austin. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 17, 2017
The Daily Texan

Hundreds protest downtown for national "Day Without Immigrants" strike

More than 400 protesters marched downtown Thursday as part of the national “Day Without Immigrants” in response to the federal government’s recent crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

At 10 a.m., a rally of about 200 people convened outside City Hall, where council members later that day approved granting $200,000 in emergency city funding to cover immigration legal fees. 


A separate group of protesters organized by Grassroots Leadership, an immigration rights advocacy group, started its trek from the J.J. Pickle Federal Building where ICE detainments occurred the past few weeks.

The group then merged with protesters from City Hall at the Capitol. The collective mass walked back down Congress Avenue to the J.J. Pickle Federal Building around 3:25 p.m, where more than 200 gathered, according to Austin Police.


Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said people coming out of their homes following recent ICE raids is powerful.

“This is the biggest immigration outpouring I’ve seen since 2006,” Libal said. “Many of them have been really traumatized by these raids. They have family members who were detained out here.” [node:read-more:link]

Feb 14, 2017
The Guardian

How immigration activists mobilized to thwart deportation raids last weekend


While hundreds of people around the country have been arrested by federal immigration officers in recent days, the Kansas City suspicions proved unfounded.

But the rapid mobilisation there showed that with communities on edge as the Trump administration’s immigration crackdowns begin, grassroots groups are learning to act quickly to form information-sharing networks and raise awareness of legal rights.

In US cities, more than 680 people were arrested last week by Ice officers, including in and around Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City, according to a statement on Monday from John Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security secretary. Kelly said the operations “targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges”.

Immigration advocates have started to form plans to respond to these raids in various forms.

In Austin, an initiative called Sanctuary in the Streets has trained US citizens to form a literal physical barrier between undocumented immigrants and enforcement agents. When agents arrive at the door, undocumented immigrants can call for help and one or more US citizens will quickly arrive to stand in front of the door, watching, challenging and filming law enforcement with the goal of ensuring constitutional rights are respected and encouraging a media spotlight.

“Any time we heard of an action happening, folks responded, were ready to go, knew what to do,” Cristina Parker, of Grassroots Leadership.

But with last weekend’s immigration raids, she said: “We found, though, that a lot of the actions happened so quickly that a lot of times folks arrived there and it would already be gone, already be done, so that’s definitely something to think about.”

News of a surge in immigration enforcement activity in Austin began to spread on social media on Thursday. Ice said that 51 people were arrested in the San Antonio-Austin area; 23 of them had criminal convictions. Though the agency said it does not set up checkpoints or conduct indiscriminate sweeps, that the majority of those detained did not have convictions will add to anxiety among unauthorised immigrants that they are now at increased risk of deportation even if they are not viewed as dangerous.

Parker said that the number of detentions was “extremely beyond the norm” and led to a flood of calls to a hotline where callers can report Ice activity and seek advice. “We’ll usually have one or two calls every day or couple days, something like that. And we had hundreds of calls over the past three or four days,” she said.

Parker claimed that Austin was singled out because the liberal-leaning city has led the fightback in Texas against attempts by the state and federal governments to compel local authorities to co-operate with immigration enforcement. Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, this month cut off $1.5m in criminal justice grants to Travis County, which includes Austin, because the sheriff is limiting the circumstances in which her department will hold suspects for Ice agents.

“There’s been a lot of progress here locally in the immigrant community being able to fight for and win some good policies at the local level, some people call us a sanctuary city because of that,” Parker said. “From the governor to apparently now the federal government, folks want to make an example out of Austin for having the audacity to disagree.”

... [node:read-more:link]

Feb 13, 2017
Free Speech Radio News

Immigrant rights advocates piece together details on recent sweeps with little official information

Immigration police have arrested at least 600 people in raids in about a dozen states, including in so-called sanctuary cities, during the past week, in what officials call ‘routine enforcement actions.’ The full scope of the sweeps is unclear, and advocates for undocumented immigrants say they may be much broader than currently known. But following President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, many fear the dragnet is now much more widely cast. 


Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the authority behind the detentions, has repeatedly stated that the arrests are routine, targeted enforcement, but organizations with close ties to immigrant communities say this is clearly not the case.

Cristina Parker is immigration projects coordinator with Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas – a city where dozens of undocumented people have been picked up in recent days.

“I think we know that what happened over this past weekend and the end of last week here in Austin was not routine at all. One of the ways we can really gauge that is the fact that we run a deportation crisis hotline here – we’ll usually hear between one or two calls every one or two days, something like that, and we had hundreds of calls in the past few days,” Parker told FSRN in a telephone interview. “Now, a lot of those were just people calling because they were worried and wanted to know their rights and such information, but many, many of them – at least a dozen – were folks who were calling because they had had a family member picked up. When we combine that with the numbers we hear from the Mexican consulate, that’s how we know it was about 60 to 70 people who were picked up.”

News of the coordinated arrests spread quickly across social media platforms. Parker says her organization began receiving reports early on, but has been cautious to vet the information to avoid panic: “We’ve received tons and tons of reports about, you know, ‘I see this’ or ‘I see that happening.’ We usually ask folks when they’re reporting that to us to snap a picture and send that to us. The reason we do that is because we’ve had a lot of pranks; unfortunately, our information went out on some white supremacist websites and so they were definitely sending some false leads to us. So we ask people to snap a picture, and that’s actually how we were able to really early on confirm this.”


In his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on internal enforcement of immigration laws. He billed it as a get tough strategy to go after quote ‘criminal aliens’. However, the order isn’t specific about what kind of crime constitutes a priority for deportation and those targeted for removal don’t have to be convicted – only charged.

Further, the order calls for officials to detain anyone suspected of violating any law, including Federal immigration law – which could make anyone who has crossed the border without authorization subject to arrest. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
The Daily Texan

Five undocumented immigrants detained in Austin according to advocacy group

 An immigration rights organization said five undocumented immigrants in Austin were detained by federal immigration enforcement Thursday, according to the Texas Observer.

“I’ve never heard of five people getting picked up in one day,” Grassroots Leadership organizer Alejandro Caceres told the Observer.

Caceres said the organization received reports of the detainments in East and North Austin through its hotline. ICE agents could not be reached for comment.

Reyna Alvarado said Immigration and Customs Law Enforcement agents detained her husband, Francisco Alvarado, on Riverside Drive on his way to landscaping work around 8:30 a.m. Reyna Alvarado said an unmarked car pulled over her husband and ICE agents got out of it to detain him.

“I had to go to school and tell my daughter that they’ve taken her father away,” Caceres said translating for Reyna Alvarado in a video from the Observer.

Reyna Alvarado and members of ICE Out of Austin, an advocacy group against ICE agents detaining locally jailed undocumented immigrants, protested the arrest outside the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, according to the Statesman.

Reyna Alvarado said their family fled Honduras 10 years ago after a gang, called the “Maras,” killed several of their family members. Reyna Alvarado said her children are billingual and are afforded the education she never had.

“What am I supposed to do now?” Caceres translated. “They’ve taken my husband away. Who’s going to take the suffering away?”

On Feb. 1, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said her office would not comply with ICE agents who ask to detain undocumented immigrants held in local jails without warrants. Detainers make requests for investigations if they suspect someone is undocumented, and Hernandez said the requests only ask but do not require local law enforcement to honor them.

Hernandez has said her deputies cannot act as federal immigration law enforcement, and should be expected to handle only local matters. Reyna Alvarado said she fears getting caught off guard by ICE then getting detained as a result.

“I feel that I’ve been corralled,” Caceres translated. “I feel that I can’t watch a car stop next to me because I think that it’s an immigration agent.”

Caceres said he expects future raids in the area.

“This might just be the beginning,” Caceres told the Observer. “Immigration [agents] have stepped up their tactics and we need to think about how we keep our friends and families protected.” [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
Al Jazeera

Protests over detention of immigrants across US

Protests have erupted across the US after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency swept across several US cities, detaining undocumented migrants.

Early Friday's raids came quickly after President Donald Trump signed three executive orders on Thursday reportedly aimed at crime reduction.

Los Angeles, Austin and Phoenix have all seen demonstrations.


In Austin, at least five undocumented residents have been detained.

Cristina Parker, the immigration programmes director at Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which organises against deportations and mass incarceration, informed Al Jazeera there may be more.

"Everyone is scrambling to get information. There are unconfirmed reports of detentions across the city. Those who are most affected by these actions are the hardest to get in contact with, currently," Parker said.

Austin has been the epicentre of the national battle over so-called sanctuary cities, an unofficial designation of cities that generally offer safety to undocumented migrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

According to local reports, the ICE detained each of the five in separate, targeted raids. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017

Have Trump’s Mass Deportations Begun? Immigration Arrests Reported Around the Country

Multiple accounts of immigration arrests have been reported in California, North Carolina, and Texas, among other states, according to numerous sources. Advocates working to confirm the identities of those detained say the suspected raids mark the beginning of President Trump’s mass deportation efforts.


As news of suspected raids travels on social media from around the country, attorneys and advocates are left wondering if such arrests will be the “new normal” under the Trump administration. In a press release, Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigration advocacy organization, said that “Trump’s deportation force” has hit Austin, with multiple undocumented immigrants targeted in an ICE raid. Much is still unknown about the populations taken into ICE custody, but there are reports in Spanish media outlets that at least some of the immigrants targeted did not have criminal records.

Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration programs director, told Rewire in an email that her organization is working to confirm the identities of those detained in Austin. She suspects ICE sought out immigrants with prior orders of removal during the mass arrests, a practice that was common under President Obama. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 11, 2017
Herald Net

Chaotic immigrant sweep causing panic across the US this week

U.S. immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states this week in a series of raids that marked the first large-scale enforcement of President Donald Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during former President Barack Obama’s administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes.


Immigration activists said the crackdown went beyond the six states DHS identified, and said they had also documented ICE raids of unusual intensity during the past two days in Florida, Kansas, Texas and Northern Virginia.

That undocumented immigrants with no criminal records were arrested and could potentially be deported sent a shock through immigrant communities nationwide amid concerns that the U.S. government could start going after law-abiding people.


A video that circulated on social media Friday appeared to show ICE agents detaining people in an Austin shopping center parking lot. Immigration advocates also reported roadway checkpoints, where ICE appeared to be targeting immigrants for random ID checks, in North Carolina and in Austin. ICE officials denied that authorities used checkpoints during the operations.


Immigration officials acknowledged that authorities had cast a wider net than they would have last year, as the result of Trump’s executive order.

The Trump administration is facing a series of legal challenges to that order, and on Thursday lost a court battle over a separate executive order to temporarily ban entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, as well as by refugees. The administration said Friday that it is considering raising the case to the Supreme Court.

Some activists in Austin and Los Angeles suggested that the raids might be retaliation for those cities’ so-called “sanctuary city” policies. A government aide familiar with the raids said it is possible the predominantly daytime operations – a departure from the Obama administration’s night raids – meant to “send a message to the community that the Trump deportation force is in effect.”


“We’re trying to make sure that families who have been impacted are getting legal services as quickly as possible. We’re trying to do some legal triage,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which provides assistance and advocacy work to immigrants in Austin. “It’s chaotic,” he said. The organization’s hotline, he said, had been overwhelmed with calls. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 10, 2017
KUT 90.5

After ICE Actions, Advocates Mobilize in Support of Austin-Area Immigrants

Immigration advocates are mobilizing following reports of a number of arrests by Immigration and Customs enforcement agents in Austin over the past 24 hours. 

“These ICE actions are politically motivated and morally bankrupt attempts to punish our community for standing up for our collective civil rights,” City Council Member Greg Casar said at a press conference with Delia Garza outside Little Walnut Creek Branch Library. “They are attempts to silence us, and these are attempts to strike fear into our hearts. But we will not be silenced.”

Casar was referring, in part, to a policy change at the Travis County Jail, which will no longer honor detainer requests from ICE as of Feb. 1.


A hotline had been set up for community remembers to report ICE action in Austin. Grassroots Leadership, a national immigration advocacy group based in Texas, said it is rallying to let people affected by the actions know that "they will not be alone.” [node:read-more:link]

Feb 1, 2017
The Texas Tribune

Ahead of Thursday hearing, Texas Senate adds muscle to anti-sanctuary city bill

Ahead of a hearing on the measure that is expected to draw hundreds, Senate Republicans have updated their bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Texas to cover college campuses and expand potential punishments for local entities that choose to not enforce immigration laws.

The modified version of Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, was given to members of the Senate State Affairs Committee Tuesday, and a public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday morning.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott declared the issue one of four emergency items of the session. That designation means lawmakers could debate and pass the bill within weeks rather than adhering to the traditional 60-day waiting period to hear bills on the floor of either chamber. 

Sanctuary policies refer to entities — such as cities, counties or colleges — that do not comply with federal immigration law. Perry’s bill would allow local police to enforce immigration laws but only if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.


Bob Libal, the executive director of watchdog group Grassroots Leadership, said Perry's bill opens the door to local leaders being bullied by the state's leadership. 

"Threats to localities that are trying to do right by their residents is a big problem," Libal said. "It threatens to make our communities less safe."

Libal also said that demanding local entities comply with ICE will lead to mass deportation that would also sweep up nonviolent offenders.

"We can safely assume that we [will be] back to the peak numbers because of this program," he said. 

The UT-Austin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also plans to protest Perry's bill during Thursday's public hearing, according to a chapter spokesman. [node:read-more:link]


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