Texas’ War on Immigrants

By Marty Lloyd Woldman

In recent weeks, President Trump’s war on immigrants has been much publicized. Measures include building a wall on the Mexican border, banning immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, and calling for the deportation of as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants who have allegedly committed crimes on U.S. soil. Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to look at withholding federal funding from cities that refuse to assist immigration officials, a loose collection of municipalities known as “sanctuary cities.”

On January 31st, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ramped up the rhetoric against sanctuary cities, saying, “Some law enforcement officials in Texas are openly refusing to enforce existing law. That is unacceptable. Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they obey. To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed.”

Hyperbole notwithstanding, this comment was pointed directly at Travis County Sheriff, Sally Hernandez, who refuses to target immigrants in custody for deportation. Travis County, the county of the state’s capital, announced it will only honor immigration holds in murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking cases. At the time of this report, $1.5 million Travis County due from the criminal justice division of Abbott's office is being withheld.

In response, Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) proposed Texas Senate Bill, SB 4, which 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 (ICE). After all the testimony (over 450) and with over 1,500 people signing in opposition, the Senate State Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill No.4 with a 7-2 vote along Party lines.

In addition to this onslaught of attacks on immigrants, The Notice blog has sources reporting that ICE fugitive-ops is on the ground now in Travis County with 4 teams of 5 to 10 officers each. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) has also been activated to help with detention and arrest. We understand that for those with criminal warrants, outstanding orders are being specifically targeted. Those with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), deferred action, stays of removal, and pending U visas are not on the list for targeting. But our source also says that it can always change based on the discretion of the supervisor reviewing individuals for removal.

“Right now there’s a lot of rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is beefing up their officers here in Austin, because they plan to do a raid sometime in the weekend or sometime in the next few days,” said Alejandro Caceres, an immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership.

The activist group is training volunteers on how to interact with law enforcement officials, local and federal, if an immigration raid breaks out in the area. The training is provided through a new program the organization started called “Sanctuary in the Streets,” which the organization says they’re borrowing from movements in Philadelphia.

“We’ve trained up to 130 people, but the plan is to train 500 people to get ready if a raid does happen,” said Caceres.

“Don’t open your door if there isn’t a warrant. Make sure that your kids don’t open the door as soon as the door is knocked. If there is a warrant, make sure that it’s signed by a judge. Make sure that everyone’s information is correct,” urges Caceres. “Don’t open your door. Don’t talk to officers if you don’t need to, and don’t sign anything.”

For further information on how you can protect the rights of immigrants, contact Alejandro Caceres at acaceres@grassrootsleadership.org.