We’re supporting the petition to stop the deportation of Alirio Gámez

Why that matters, and how you can help

Alirio Gámez entered sanctuary at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin in August of this year, and has been living within the church since. During a press conference in September, Alirio commented “I entered sanctuary because I have a right to live, and I want my life to be respected.”

In fact, Alirio’s life is at risk if he is deported back to his native El Salvador. In 2015 Alirio left his job and his family to escape the violence crippling his country, and threats directed towards him. After traveling by land to enter the United States, Alirio was picked up by ICE and pressured to leave, but instead he pursued the legal course of action to seek political asylum. In May, his asylum was denied and he was issued a deportation order.

I entered sanctuary because I have a right to live, and I want my life to be respected" - Alirio Gamex Alirio’s situation came to the attention of the Austin Sanctuary Network, a coalition of over 25 congregations and nonprofits in Austin, who helped Alirio find sanctuary at First UU. Together the Austin Sanctuary Network and Alirio are preparing to fight until Alirio is granted prosecutorial discretion by ICE to stop his deportation. The ASN has launched a petition campaign with that goal, and we’re asking you to sign on.

By signing the petition online, you not only add your name to the hundreds who have already, but you will automatically send an e-mail directly to ICE officials Norma Lacy and Daniel Bible requesting they use their prosecutorial discretion to allow him to remain in our community.

While Alirio is just one man, every victory against America’s deportation regime chips away at the system. In 2015, the First Unitarian Universalist Church provided sanctuary to Sulma Franco, an LGBTQ activist from Guatemala who faced persecution and violence in her home country because of her sexual orientation. Sulma was the first person to seek sanctuary from deportation in a church in Texas since the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, but her situation ended in victory: with broad support from the community, Sulma won a Stay of deportation and 15 months later earned her US resident card to stay. We can win for Alirio too.

The extreme violence Alirio faced in Central America has everything to do with America’s militarized and politically hyperbolic “war on drugs”, combined with its insatiable appetite for those same drugs. In spite of this, the US denies asylum to 83% of seekers from El Salvador, 77% from Guatemala, 80% from Honduras and nearly 90% from Mexico. Many asylum seekers, especially those coming from Central America, do not have legal representation as they formally seek asylum in the US — 30% from El Salvador do not. By winning individual victories we can chip away at the legal culture of default deportation, and establish increasing precedence for asylum seekers to stay.

Also, we might help save Alirio’s life.

That’s why we’re asking you to sign the petition to stop Alirio’s deportation.

To keep up with this situation and learn more follow the Austin Sanctuary Network on Facebook.

 

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: DACA and the Zen Wisdom of Taking Action

After his categorical announcement terminating the DACA “dreamers” program that helps hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants on a path to education, jobs, and potentially citizenship, the ever-unpredictable Donald then did an about-face and he’ll be working with Democrats (his new BFFs “Chuck and Nancy”) to help pass legislation that protects them. Despite Paul Ryan’s bleated denials and cautions, this is great news for these “dreamers,” nearly half of whom came here before they were six years old and many who have known no home but the United States, and great news for our country: our undocumented immigrants contribute 11.74 billion in taxes (as opposed to the zero tax dollars Donald paid in the sole year of his released returns) and contribute to our society in a wide array of roles in our workforce and military. Even more good news: according to Pelosi and Schumer, these negotiations will include tightening border security—but stop short of building Donald’s ridiculous, exorbitantly expensive wall. And this may finally be the thing that begins to crack support from Donald’s die-hard core base.

Donald’s unconstitutional pardon of Joe Arpaio, the sheriff who repeatedly violated prisoners’ civil and human rights as well as his indictment for doing so, may not stand. At least four separate coalitions have filed motions protesting the pardon, and Arpaio’s conviction may yet be upheld—including objections from the federal judge who found him guilty.

Though many in this administration and the GOP continue to deny climate change, in the wake of devastating storms, fires, and earthquakes, the political conversation seems to at least be shifting toward how we can protect ourselves from its inevitable effects (even if deniers aren’t yet ready to admit what’s causing them), and many Republicans are speaking out and urging the administration to reconsider its climate policies.

Speaking of Republicans finally getting woke—the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee is considering legislation to make it harder for Donald to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation.

The California legislature passed a bill requiring all presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot. If it passes in the senate it will head to the governor for his signature into law.

Meanwhile, if you want to keep track of all the Russia developments flying around (or any of the multitude of Donald’s transgressions against our country and democracy), Amy Siskind has a new searchable chart of every one of her weekly list of changes (“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”)—enter a keyword (may I suggest “Russia,” for example?) to get an exhaustive list of all developments regarding that topic.

Finally, if you find yourself twisted into knots of anxiety over the current administration, the New York Times published this excellent brief articleon the futility of worrying and the Zen wisdom of taking action instead. Resisting is not only not futile…it’s how we’ll overcome the forces acting against our democracy and our country, and we will win.

We’re Showing Up for Texas Today

Today we have a message for the president. Texans are hurting from Hurricane Harvey, and it will take us years to recover. While it will be some time before the full damage estimates and economic impact of the storm are assessed, we can be sure that our great state’s recovery will take a long time. But we’re Texans, and we’re not afraid of the hard work ahead of us.

Texas has never seen a storm like Harvey. It is epochal.

On his Texas visit today the president will likely take advantage of some photo opportunities, and speak some self-described perfect words. He will no doubt make promises and try to burnish his presidential image. But the real measure of his response will not be if he appears more presidential, but rather his administration’s accomplishments in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Will that response tackle not only the misfortunes of the affluent in this disaster, but also the misfortunes of those his administration has habitually targeted from its start?

It is difficult to reconcile the forthcoming pledges to rebuild impacted areas of Texas with the president’s pardon of Joe Arpaio as the storm was bearing down on Houston (for ratings, he said), his refusal to close border patrol checkpoints on evacuation routes out of South Texas, his destruction of some of our state’s most treasured natural gems to make way for his border wall, and his imminent repeal of DACA. That’s why we’re showing up for Texas today during the president’s visit.

There has never ever been a natural disaster in the U.S. during which public officials have had to clarify numerous times that those seeking shelter from the storm and  flooding will not be deported.

The test is simple. Will this administration start to take the threat of climate change seriously and begin tackling the technological and infrastructure challenges necessary to reduce the impact of future disasters like this one? Will this administration make sure that the poorest communities and communities of color – which suffer disparate impacts of natural disasters – recover from this storm? Or will those communities be offered only platitudes and empty gestures? Time will tell, but the recent actions of this administration make clear its steadfast refusal to extend the same consideration to those communities that it extends to the well-to-do. We are showing up today to make sure the administration knows we will not allow these concerns to be swept under the rug in the usual post-disaster niceties.

We also cannot forget that many other policies this administration pursues have negative impacts on our state, and when combined with the devastation from Harvey, further harm our state and our people.

The proposed border wall means Texans will lose their land through eminent domain, and fragile ecological regions will be decimated; even our own Senator John Cornyn’s recent border “security” bill doesn’t include funding for the president’s vision of this folly.

The nation’s largest inland port, Laredo, is on the front lines of the president’s Twitter war against against NAFTA. In 2015, Texas exported nearly $100 billion in goods to Mexico, and some 382,000 Texas jobs are linked to trade with Mexico. Targeting NAFTA hurts Texans and hurts our economy.

The president’s intention to rescind DACA, which is expected to happen this week, will have a disproportionate impact in Texas. Of the nearly 800,000 young adults whose DACA status has been approved, more than 25 percent of them live in Texas. They may have come to the U.S. as undocumented children through no fault of their own, but they have followed specific requirements to remain in the U.S. legally. As a result, they have graduated from colleges, started Texas businesses, bought homes, and built lives in Texas. For that they are being used to score political points by an administration determined to take a hard line on all immigrants regardless of status. He has used them as scapegoats. He lies about crime statistics to stigmatize a vulnerable group, and to stoke fear and hatred of all immigrants.

Trump’s policies will harm the Texas economy, which will be deeply strained during the long road of recovery from Harvey. We are already gearing up for the budget fights in Congress that could stifle the emergency relief we so desperately need.

Harvey has to be our top priority right now, as we anticipate thousands of evacuees coming to Austin. We have been and will continue supporting the rescuers and aid givers who need our volunteer hours and our financial and material assistance. But today we also need to send a message: Texans are great, resilient people, and we will do all we can to protect our state from policies that harm our residents and their livelihoods. 

Indivisible Austin
Wilco Indivisible
Indivisible TXLege
TX10 Indivisible
TX17 Indivisible
TX21 Indivisible
TX35 Indivisible

 

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: “I thought it would be easier”

Trump: I thought it would be easier
Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life (Reuters)

Courtesy of 5 Minute Activism

  • Republicans tried to ram through new health care legislation without proper vetting again this week. YOU all immediately called your MoCs in legions to tell them this haste and the shoddy replacement plan were unacceptable, and the vote broke down before it could be taken.
  • Remember the Department of Homeland Security, at the behest of the White House, going after Twitter to reveal the identity of a critic of Donald’s immigration policies, in a chilling 1984 moment? The DHS inspector general is not tolerating that unconstitutional nonsense and has launched an investigation into possible abuse of authority as well as “potential broader misuse of summons authority” within the department. With all of us holding the administration accountable, we can continue to enact these checks and balances to Donald’s abuses of power, even within the government.
  • Donald suffered another blow to his attempts to overreach his office when a federal court struck down his executive order withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities, stating that only Congress has the power to allocate those funds. Amusingly, once again the ruling is partially based on Donald’s own administration’s words–Donald, Atty General Jeff Sessions, and press secretary Angry Spicer.
  • Public and lawmaker resistance from both sides of the aisle put the kibosh on Donald’s ridiculous border wall plans in a proposed spending bill, to avert a government shutdown.
  • The committee that oversees granting congressional access passes to news media rejected alt-right platform Breitbart’s request for press accreditation, for failure to meet proof of non-lobbying connections. Breitbart “reporters” can still get into sessions, but must go through public access–it’s a small victory, but one that helps keep the extremist, incendiary, white-nationalist-driven propaganda site from being legitimized by this White House.
  • Thanks in part to unremitting pressure from voters like you, the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into Michael Flynn’s potentially illegal payments from Russia and Turkey that he failed to disclose as national security adviser–and for which, documents released Thursday reveal, he did not seek the approval he was told to get.
  • Meanwhile another watchdog group, United to Protect Democracy, is suing Donald to find out whether he’s bullying civil servants into violating the law.
  • Finally, FOX News continues to be shaken by fallout from its employees’ actions–not just the $13 million payouts on Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment suits before his recent ouster, but now 11 current and former employees have filed suit for severe racial discrimination at the network. Perhaps FOX would appreciate a fitting Bible quote: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Four things you can do to stop SB4

The time has finally come–the Texas House of Representatives is going to debate and vote on SB4 on Wednesday.

SB4 is the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill that will undermine community policing efforts and will affect our neighbors, our workforce, kids in our schools, and the relationship between police and our communities. This doesn’t just affect the immigrant community, it impacts everyone who may be asked to prove he or she is a citizen.

Here are 4 things you can do to help stop this terrible bill:

  1. Call your Texas House rep and ask them to vote AGAINST SB4:
    “Hi, my name is ________ and I am calling to demand that the Representative OPPOSE Senate Bill 4 in any form. [My family / Texas students / Texas children] deserve/s to live without fear, and to live lives of dignity and prosperity. Please tell the Representative that Texans OPPOSE SB 4 and they must too.”
  2. Join Indivisible Austin’s emergency conference call TONIGHT at 8 p.m. with representatives from United We Dream and Workers Defense Project
    Dial-in Number: 1-(712) 770-8067
    Conference Code: 409542
  3. Join Texans from across the state at the Capitol on WEDNESDAY to fill the gallery–let our representatives know we’re watching
    There are several events scheduled at the Capitol on Wednesday:
    9am – TRUST Coalition press conference, WEST Steps of the Capitol (*location changed from South to West steps*)
    10am – Person to Person Outreach for Representatives Going Into the House Chamber
    6pm – Prayer Vigil in the Rotunda
  4. Call, text, or email your friends and family members in other parts of the state and ask them to do #1!
    Here’s a target list of Texas House reps who need to hear from their constituents! Our representatives in Austin are on the right side of this issue, but there are reps across the state who need phone calls.

We have ONE LAST CHANCE to stop SB4 and protect immigrant families in our state. Please join us in rising to the challenge to #StandIndivisible and give it all we can!

April 25: Emergency Conference Call on SB4: “Sanctuary Cities” Bill

Our next conference call is on the night before the full Texas House votes on SB4, the “Sanctuary Cities” bill. We are lining up guest speakers, including Jose Garza of Workers Defense Project and Chris Valdez and Karla Perez Ramirez of United We Dream. Watch this space for more detail.

WHAT: Indivisible Austin Conference Call

WHEN: Tuesday, April 25 at 8 p.m. CT

HOW: Call 1-(712) 770-8067 / Conference Code: 409542

Facebook event

About Karla Perez Ramirez

Karla is the statewide coordinator for the United We Dream UndocuTexas campaign and a beneficiary of DACA. She is a second year law student at the University of Houston Law Center and Board member of United We Dream. English/Spanish.

About Chris Valdez

Chris works with United We Dream on Texas communications, is a court-appointed special advocate through Child Advocates in Harris County and is based in Houston. English dominant/Spanish proficient.

About Jose Garza

Jose Garza, Executive Director, Workers Defense ProjectJose Garza is Executive Director of the Workers Defense Project. Jose, who started at WDP in January 2016, is a native Texan who has devoted his career to the fight for working families and immigrant families. His homecoming to WDP is inspired by a “deep belief that this state can be a place where working families can get ahead.” (Barragan, AAS)

Jose started his career in Washington, D.C., where he worked for Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, attended law school at Catholic University, and worked for a federal district judge. He returned to Texas for the first time in 2006 to work on the border as an assistant public defender at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and then as an assistant federal public defender in the Western District of Texas.

In 2010, Jose returned to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Deputy General Counsel for the House Com­mit­tee on Education and Labor. He went on to work as Special Counsel to the National Labor Rela­tions Board, and most recently he served Secretary Tom Perez as a senior policy official at the U.S. Department of Labor. Garza brings extensive experience working with local, state and national labor organizations to build opportunity for working families and immigrant families.

 

SB4 “Sanctuary Cities” Update

Short version:

This is an URGENT call to action. Call, email, fax, tweet at, and post on Facebook to your state senators, tell them you oppose Senate Bill 4, and urge them to vote against it. The bill aims to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities and counties, where local officials decline to participate in federal immigration enforcement efforts. Essentially, this bill turns local law enforcement into a deportation force. Want to fight Trump’s agenda of hate? In Texas, this is where the fight is.

Use this tool to find out who represents you in each district

Longer version:

On February 2, despite 16 hours of overwhelming public testimony against the bill, the Texas Senate State Affairs committee provisionally approved the bill in a 7-2 party line vote, sending it to the full Senate for a vote next week.

Of course, Trump exploited a myth of “immigrant criminals” to fire up his base, and this is key to the GOP’s narrative. More Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming.

Abbott is trying to sell this bill as being “in the interest of keeping Texans safe.” This is absurd.

Sanctuary cities that may choose to house refugees are not providing safe haven for Trump’s imaginary criminals. These are women and children fleeing abusive relationships who want a better life for their children. These are college students. 

Essentially, what this bill does, is turn local law enforcement into a deportation force, and it will affect folks who just want to meaningfully contribute.

From the Statesman:

“Under the bill, police chiefs and sheriffs would be prohibited from discouraging officers from inquiring about subjects’ immigration status, county jails would be forced to cooperate with federal requests to extend the detention of inmates suspected of immigration violations, victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants in sanctuary jurisdictions could sue local governments, and the state would withhold grant money from local jurisdictions that don’t comply with the bill.”

Senate Bill 4 is Governor Greg Abbott’s way of trying to stir up his base, by riding the wave of anti-immigrant, racist xenophobia Donald Trump has made central to his brand of hateful, cowardly fear-mongering.  Essentially, it is an attempt to punish any city for failing to cooperate in mass deportations. The bill cuts state criminal justice grants, money that funds services for veterans, parents struggling with drug addiction and victims of family violence.

Aside from being wrong-headed and needless, the kind of aggressive deportation Abbott proposes would absolutely wreck the state economy. Agriculture, construction and biotech, all crucial to the state economy, rely on immigrant labor.

In Texas, it’s crucial that we bring the fight against hatred into our local and state government races. Together we can turn the tide.

Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are trying to jam this measure through, so we have to act, NOW.

If you’re not sure who represents you, use this tool.

Get your state senator’s info. Call, fax, Facebook, and Tweet at them to oppose Senate Bill 4. If you call their office and they oppose Senate Bill 4, then voice your support. They need to hear from you as well.

Use social media over the weekend. These are the hashtags to target: #SB4Bad4TX, #stopSB4, #noSB4, #txlege and #NoBanNoWall.

The senators listed below are those who have publicly voiced their support for this bill.

Senate District 5, Charles Schwertner

(512) 463-0105
(512) 863-8456 

Senate District 28, Charles Perry (rep who introduced the bill)

(512) 463-0128
(806) 783-9934
 
Senate District 24, Dawn Buckingham

(512) 463-0124

Senate District 67, Jeff Leach

(512) 463-0544
(972)424-1419

Senate District 1, Bryan Hughes

(903) 753-8137

Texas Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick 
512-463-0001

Texas Committee on State Affairs
(512) 463-0380

I’m sure you’re aware of the concept of sanctuary cities, but in case you need some more background info on how this is playing out here, here you go.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

Call their district and Austin offices and voice your opposition to Senate Bill 4. Demand that he do the same. Tell everyone in your group to do this. It’s critical that these representatives hear that their constituents do not want this bill to pass.

If it’s helpful, I’ve included a script you can use here:

“Hi, my name is _________ and I’m calling to urge _________ to go on the record and reject Senate Bill 4. This bill will only increase mistrust in law enforcement, and will do nothing to actually keep us safe. The research shows that legislation like State Bill 4 only drives undocumented crime victims and witnesses into the shadows. Governor Abbott’s introduction of this bill in the legislature at this moment is a cowardly, overt attempt at capitalizing on the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump exploited during his campaign. But that doesn’t have any place in Texas. We, the voters, won’t forget ______ position on this matter, and urge him to get on the right side of history, or we will be voting him out of office when he seeks re-election in 2019.”

Hammer these representatives on their social media channels, Facebook and Twitter. Be unrelenting. Remind them that their support of this bill cuts funding for veterans, that there’s no data to support the claim that it makes us “safer” (in fact it may be the opposite), and that women, children and college students will be affected, not blood-thirsty criminals. Feel free to link to the articles in this post. Get the message out there. Many of these GOP Senators claim to be Christians. I can’t think of anything more uncharitable than using a militarized police force to deport hard-working families. Remind them of that.

In addition to calling, Facebooking, and tweeting, we are going to FAX their offices our opposition, using Faxzero.com or Freefax.com.

Whether or not you’re in Travis County, voice your support for Sheriff Sally Hernandez for standing up for what’s right. She’s on Twitter @SallyTCSheriff.

The same goes for  Judge Sarah Eckhardt. She’s taking a public stand against Greg Abbott. She’s on Twitter @JudgeEckhardt.

I’m going out on a limb here, and this may be the hardest part. Speak with 4 people you see in your daily life *in person* about this. This can be delicate, awkward, and uncomfortable.But it’s important that these issues are brought out into the open. Politely skirting the issue of institutional racism (which is what this Bill is) and hoping that people put it together on their own will only strengthens our opponents, who will capitalize on their base’s ignorance of the facts.

This can be especially hard in places like rural areas like Senate District 5, which comprises Limestone, Robertson, Milam, Grimes and Walker counties–places where access to education and healthcare is scarce, places where economic opportunities are dwindling, and because of that, Trump’s populist message hit home.

My dad is from Limestone county–the tiny, one-stoplight Groesbeck–and I’ve spent time there my whole life. As tough as it might seem to fight to change how these people vote, the reality is that they are, for the most part, hard-working, decent people, who just want what everyone wants: what they perceive as a better life.

Trump promised them the moon. He’s now showing us what the actual substance of that promise really looks like: tax cuts for millionaires, tax increase for the middle class, no healthcare, and a kleptocracy on a scale unseen in our time, where corrupt billionaires will grow incalculably richer. The perversity of all of this, of course, is that Trump’s propaganda machine exists to convince these voters to vote against their own self-interest.

Making matters worse, America’s democratic institutions are under constant attack, by a white supremacist heading up the NSC in Stephen Bannon, a conspiracy-minded National Security advisor in Mike Flynn, a racist in Stephen Miller–this is less a presidential administration and more like an autocratic, 3rd-world, white-supremacist regime.

Amazingly, their work is made easier by buildings full of Internet trolls, waves of fake Twitter accounts the GOP uses to amplify their message, fake news opportunists who learned how to generate click-ad revenue, and a few highly visible “fashionably racist” alt-right celebrities using their platforms to spread fear and encourage open bigotry. The official state news channel of the Trump administration, Fox News, is how many of the people in this district are going to be getting their info.

But the inauguration drove a crucial concept home: bots don’t fill bleachers. The Women’s March, where millions of people flooded the streets after a volunteer started a Facebook group, only made this all the more clear. We have the mandate.

So talk to people in person. See what they have to say. If you’re discussing sanctuary cities, let them know that huge amounts of research have gone into this, and that in fact sanctuary cities are safer than comparable non-sanctuary cities. This bill, frankly, is unnecessary. It’s political grandstanding. Let’s do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t pass the State Senate next week.

This is a key moment in history. People who hide from this fight will be remembered as cowards. The people who are now actively embracing Trump’s brand of racist fear-mongering will be remembered as much, much worse.

Thank you for standing up for what’s right.

M.O.

P.S. I’m not on Facebook, so there are many Indivisible Groups whom I can’t reach directly. Please help me get the message out to them.

Use the Indivisible guide’s map tool to find other groups and let’s put up a united front.

Additional info here:

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/01/29/512002076/why-sanctuary-cities-are-safer

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/sanctuary-cities-public-safety-kate-steinle-san-francisco

http://www.citylab.com/crime/2017/01/sanctuary-cities-are-safer-and-more-productive/514508/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/01/27/trump-says-sanctuary-cities-are-hotbeds-of-crime-data-say-the-opposite/?utm_term=.244664116ffb

http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Gov-Abbott-cuts-criminal-justice-grants-to-10901849.php

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/we-cannot-afford-to-make-our-community-less-safe-by-driving-people-into-the-shadows/2017/02/02/f14ed2d6-e5ac-11e6-ba11-63c4b4fb5a63_story.html?utm_term=.c71df9dbbd15

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-governor-pulls-millions-in-state-grant-money-from-sanctuary-county/

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/will-ban-sanctuary-cities-make-texas-safer/JEE1OafJRmrb3swwH8ktcI/

ACTION TODAY – Rep. Roger Williams Wants to Punish Austin for Being a So-called “Sanctuary City”

We will be meeting today at Williams’ Austin office at 1005 Congress Ave at 12pm today. Please bring signs, written statements, and/or just your contempt for a Congressman who puts partisan politics above the law and what is best for Austin. Try to get there a little early to have time for parking, traffic, etc.

sanctuary-cities.jpg

No, it’s not “just common sense” Roger. It’s federal overreach. Austin is not refusing to enforce federal laws. They are choosing to leave the immigration policing up to federal agencies whose responsibility it is! Why are you punishing your Austin constituents?

This morning (2/3) I spoke to a staffer in the DC office. He said that Williams wants local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal law. When I asked if there was ever a case where the local authorities knew someone was undocumented but refused or neglected to report it to the feds, he tried to evade the question. When I pressed him, he got flustered and finally admitted that they didn’t know if that had happened but will do some research and get back to me…

They know there is no legal justification for this

For a full explanation about our position on this please see the blog post written by an immigration attorney. An Immigration Attorney and an Activist Scholar Explain Why SB4 is a Terrible Idea and What You Can Do to Stop It.

How to Help: Active Immigrations and Custom Enforcement Ops in Travis County

Through attorneys in the Austin immigrant rights community, we’ve learned that there appears to be an active ICE operation in Travis County right now. According to our sources, ICE is lodging detainers for any foreign-born person in a county jail. We understand that those with criminal warrants and outstanding orders for removal are being specifically targeted.

The news is unnerving, and also frustrating because non-lawyer types are powerless to do much besides share information. But sharing that information can help people make plans and find help before they need it.

The links below have resources in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic. Please share them with your networks.

From the Austin Commission on Immigrant Affairs:

“It likely that we will see and can expect a change in how immigration enforcement occurs in our communities. Thus more people may find themselves facing enforcement actions. In preparation for that, the following materials should be distributed widely to people who are concerned about increased immigration enforcement.”

Know Your Rights! Protect Yourself Against Immigration Raids- United We Dream

Know Your Rights- National Immigration Law Center

Additional Resources are: 

Linea de Defensa Comunitaria (512-270-1515)
Deportation crisis hotline for Spanish or English speaking clients. We can help people find loved ones in detention centers/county jails, connect to attorneys, find basic needs financial, food, etc. support, engage with a supportive community of others impacted, and access mental health care. Also seeking bilingual crisis hotline volunteers. Training provided.

Family Safety Planning ToolkitFormulario de Planificacion Familiar:

This PDF toolkit, available in English and Spanish, was developed by the Immigrant Services Network of Austin to assist individuals and families with preparing to respond effectively in the event of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The goals of the toolkit are to educate immigrants about their rights, and to assist individuals and families with an emergency plan for their household.

#KnowYourRights

An Immigration Attorney and an Activist Scholar Explain Why SB4 is a Terrible Idea and What You Can Do to Stop It.

By Mark Kinzler kinzlerimmigration.com and Shaun Glaze, M.S

girl-flag-croppedImage courtesy Flickr user jvoves https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/138556236

Why SB4 must be opposed and how to do it effectively (SHORT VERSION)

  1. SB4 damages the ability for local law enforcement to properly carry out their duties of protecting and serving their communities because it forces officers of these agencies to become de facto immigration enforcement officers. Particularly in areas with large Latino communities, this law would degrade the level of trust between the community and the law enforcement agency (LEA), a trust which is crucial to the local agency’s ability to properly investigate local crimes.
  2. Requiring local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws as a part of their regular job duties will overburden agencies that are already strained economically and by their current workloads. In order to effectively and legally comply, local law enforcement officers will need extensive training in federal law as it relates to lawful immigration status and will be required to perform extra immigration-related investigations with each arrest made.
  3. SB4 is attempting to order state LEAs to mandatorily comply with a Federal law that is currently voluntary, which is absurd on a practical level and also constitutionally dubious.  
  4. It is important to remember that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers can still access any jail at any time to investigate the immigration status of a detained person. The result of SB4 would be to shift the burden of this investigation away from ICE and place it onto local law enforcement officers. This essentially requires state law enforcement agencies to expend their own resources to carry out federal enforcement job duties that are already in place.

I want to go to SB-4 hearing but am not sure how to do that.

  1. Write down your talking points (testimony). It doesn’t have to be perfect. Print 20 copies of this with your name on it, to submit to the record. Otherwise, just bring the 1 copy for yourself. Remember, personal stories are remembered better than stats. It’s fine to include both.
  1. Learn about hearing process. What- SB4 (committee hearing). Where- Senate Chamber, When- 8:30AM. Who- Committee on State Affairs (if your rep is on this committee your voice is extra-important). Expected attendees – 200
  1. Show up early to hearing to have plenty of time to park, find room, meet neighbors, and have better chance to hear/speak (if you’re speaking).
  1. Listen to the bill be read by committee. Then invited testimony (if any). Finally, public testimony (where the audience can take turns speaking for no more than 2 minutes).  This closely mirrors district office visits in the Indivisible Group Toolkit. Typically, you can take pictures/video. Document the process. Submit your written testimony if you don’t speak (again, you need 20 copies with your name on it to do this).
  1. Leave room and document the process. Make a debrief video to talk about what experience was like. Share it widely and/or send to local indivisible groups. #SB4Bad4TX is the hashtag for the hearing.
  1. Celebrate and signal boost. Thank speakers for their public testimony- especially those marginalized by these policies. “Like”/”Share” content online, chat about experience with friends, family, coworkers, write emails to organizations involved, send thank you notes, tweet at press, whatever you’d like to do that helps you feel good about participating in the political process.

Why SB4 must be opposed and how to do it effectively (LONG VERSION)

Texas Senate Bill No. 4, or “a bill relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of state and federal laws governing immigration and to the duties of law enforcement agencies concerning certain arrested persons” was introduced by Texas state senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and seeks to require law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Texas to assist and participate in the investigation and determination of the legal status of immigrants who come into their custody. Generally, the job of arresting, detaining, and deporting immigrants is carried out by a branch of the Department of Homeland Security called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (commonly referred to as “ICE”). SB4, was born from the current storm of anti-immigrant sentiment, with great support from Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who are commonly known to make factually questionable and often clearly disingenuous statements about immigration problems in Texas. SB4 is misguided for several reasons:

  1. Public Safety – Cooperation agreements between ICE and law enforcement agencies have existed for many years. Nevertheless, the agreements are not mandatory, and different law enforcement agencies have been able to choose their level of involvement with ICE officials. Many LEAs throughout the U.S. have chosen to have minimal cooperation with ICE. Though there are several reasons often cited by the LEAs for the choice to provide minimal cooperation, one very common reason is the fact that the LEA’s cooperation with ICE actually damages the ability of the LEA to properly investigate and prosecute crime. In areas with high populations of immigrants, trust between the immigrant community and the LEA is crucial to the ability of the LEA’s fundamental task of protecting and serving the community as a whole. If the immigrant community is aware that the LEA readily cooperates with ICE, or is legally required to assist ICE in its efforts to apprehend deportable persons (a la SB4), members of that community will be fearful of cooperating with the LEA. When members of the community fear having contact with the police, the policy impedes the LEA’s ability to solve local crimes because the effectiveness of that job relies on information from witnesses and statements from victims and other members of the community.
  2. Resources and training of the law enforcement agencies – Local police agencies have an extremely difficult job as it is, and they are often underfunded. Many LEAs do not support cooperation with ICE because it adds another level of investigatory requirement to their already strained workloads and budgets. In order for local officers to properly and lawfully act in a role as an immigration enforcer, the officers would need extensive training in federal and immigration law and would have to increase work hours to comply with the new requirements.
  3. Federal preemption – Under a constitutional principle called federal preemption, state and local authorities are generally not allowed to enforce federal law, particularly when an enforcement procedure is already in place. This is a long-standing principle that has been addressed by several federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy is also reasonable on a practical level because federal authorities are usually in the best position to enforce federal law. Specialization and extensive training is often required to carry out this enforcement due to the complicated nature of the laws being enforced. Also, federal preemption precludes states from enacting their own laws related to federal matters so that overlapping jurisdictions do not end up with conflicting laws on the same matter. Generally, if that happens, the federal law will supersede the state law and the state law will be invalid.

Q: Help, Thursday SB-4 is my first Senate hearing. What do I do?

A: Excellent that you’ll show up! Just do a little prep work (alone or with a partner), and you’ll be fine.

1. Prepare by learning about the hearing process

  1. The location for SB-4 is the Senate Chamber (hard to find- come early) at 8:30AM
  2. You can find history of the bill
  3. Read analyses, especially analyses offered by immigration lawyers, migrants, and those directly affected by the law.
  4. Learn how to leverage your voice. Not all voices carry equal weight, though even a whisper can join the chorus. The voices of constituents of the committee ((Senate Committee on State Affairs (C570) matter A LOT MORE. If your rep is any of the following, make your voice heard. If they aren’t your rep (and you have 3 minutes of time), find out which Indivisible group has these reps, and offer that indivisible group (or any group resisting SB4) your support. Let them know how important their collective voices are here. Ask how you can help them get their voices heard. *Their* reps can kill this bill before it has a chance to move to the full Senate.

Chair:Sen. Joan Huffman Vice Chair: Sen. Bryan Hughes Members: Sen. Brian Birdwell Sen. Brandon Creighton Sen. Craig Estes Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. Sen. Jane Nelson Sen. Charles Schwertner Sen. Judith Zaffirini 

If your rep authored the bill, let them know what you think

Perry (sponsor) AND co-authors- Bettencourt | Birdwell | Campbell | Estes | Hancock | Hughes | Kolkhorst | Schwertner

If your rep is not on the committee. Please consider bringing prepared written remarks to submit to written testimony. 20 copies, your name on each copy.

2. Show up a little early. You might get lost, especially trying to find the Senate Chamber. Also, there might be 200 people there. Carpool, if possible.

3. The hearing starts. Usually, there will be a presentation of the bill, followed by invited testimony, then public testimony. Everyone gets 2 minutes. You may be rushed, but you have the right to 2 minutes of time. If there is a chance you may not speak, please consider bringing prepared written remarks to submit to written testimony. 20 copies, your name on each copy.

4. Be polite and steadfast in your testimony. See point 4 in the group toolkit for more information on what you can do to prepare. It is okay to get emotional as you speak from the heart. Many politicians like to hear personal stories.

5. Document the experience and share it with others. Take pictures. Take videos. Do a debrief with friends or alone to share what it was like. Your clip may encourage someone else to start showing up at hearings, too. You can use #SB4Bad4TX

6. Celebrate your participation in the political process, and stay tuned with groups to learn what is happening next. You can also share documents, pictures, videos with groups so they can signal boost. If you find out information about the bill but can’t act on it, share it with an affected indivisible group and they can use it for organizing.