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Home | Tag Archives: ice raids

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Advocates call for More “Sanctuary Congregations” Ahead of new Texas Law

Before Senate Bill 4, a far-reaching immigration law, goes into effect on Sept. 1, opponents are mobilizing across Texas, including those hoping to see more Texas churches offer “sanctuary” to the undocumented.

The backdrop for Rev. Noel Andersen’s sermon last week wasn’t a church dais but the gates of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. The unusual setting didn’t stop him from preaching about his disappointment in Gov. Greg Abbott for signing one of the most aggressive state-based immigration laws in the country the night before.

“Somebody told me once that the Bible was important here,” Andersen said, ginning up an already fiery crowd of opponents that have, since January, railed against Senate Bill 4.

Andersen is from Washington, D.C., where his nonprofit, Church World Service, is based. But he said he expects to spend much of the summer in Texas, working to reignite a movement of churches offering “sanctuary” to the undocumented, an effort that has taken on a new urgency since Abbott signed SB 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1.

“We do expect to see a greater need now as immigrants are being more targeted through SB 4 and through President Trump’s policies,” Andersen said. “[The goal is] helping stop a deportation order and creating space to create a legal campaign to be able to stop that deportation and keep those people with their families.”

The bill allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest. It also punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. The governor and other supporters of the bill insist it’s needed to deter people who are already in the country illegally from committing more crimes.

But law enforcement agencies and faith-based organizations argue the law opens up the state to legalized racial profiling and threatens to undermine the trust immigrants place in local police officers. Some religious groups argue that those concerns have been largely ignored by Texas Republican leaders that have supported the bill. The governor’s office did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story.

But Andersen said there is a silver lining if the new law draws more attention to the decades-long practice of recognizing churches and other buildings as “sensitive locations” when it comes to immigration enforcement.

“Sanctuary congregations are committed to opening their congregations to undocumented people who are in need,” Andersen said. “Oftentimes, that includes someone facing a deportation order or an imminent deportation.”

Andersen’s effort is just one example of how opponents of SB 4 are expected to mobilize over the summer across Texas ahead of the bill’s Sept. 1 implementation date. Last week, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo sued Texas over the bill. More lawsuits are expected.

Faith-based groups have the wind at their backs in one respect: Immigration and Customs Enforcement have long recognized churches and other buildings as generally off limits, except under extreme circumstances.

“The policies provide that enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals should generally be avoided, and that such actions may only take place when (a) prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official, or (b) there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval,” an ICE memo states.

The “sensitive locations” policy predates Trump, but Andersen said he hasn’t heard the administration has plans to change it. In a memo released in March, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the policy was still in effect.

“They could rescind that, but we believe even without that policy … there is a certain symbolic protection that congregations and places of worship have,” he said.

The movement has been around since the 1980s, when a wave of Central American immigrants came to the United States seeking refuge. After a meeting between Presbyterians and a Quakers in Arizona, the two networks joined forces and began offering safe haven to Nicaraguans and El Salvadorans, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The movement eventually spread to Illinois, northern California and South Texas.

The movement has experienced a resurgence in the country since 2014 that included an Austin case involving a Central American undocumented immigrant. In June 2015, Sulma Franco, a gay woman from Guatemala, was taken in by the staff of First Unitarian Universalist Church after receiving a final deportation order. She said her sexual orientation made her a target in the violent Central American country and refused to report to ICE. The agency eventually relented, and Franco was granted a stay two months later.

To be sure, not all faith-based groups view themselves as sanctuary congregations, but some have a history of aiding undocumented people in other ways.

“Texas Baptist Convention has an immigration service center in San Antonio, but it doesn’t house anyone,” said Dr. Gus Reyes, the director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. “But anyone who is here and has any possibility of receiving legal status or going from a green card visa to becoming a U.S. citizen, we try to help those folks.”

Last week, Andersen expressed hope that Austin would set the example and spread the sanctuary message across the state.

“We have a strong movement in Austin, and we have dedicated faith leaders that work with immigrants and refugees throughout Texas,” he said.

Read related coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Recent Raids Drive Immigrant Families to Passport Scramble

Fearing deportation, immigrant families are crowding passport lines across the state as undocumented parents seek U.S. passports for their American children.

Carlos Bernal and his wife woke up their children, gathered their documents and drove to the Travis County passport office before dawn Monday. They were first in line at 5 a.m., three hours before the office opened.

“We’re here to get our kids passports, in case they kick us out,” Bernal said in his native Spanish.

His children, ages 14, 13 and 6, are U.S. citizens. He and his wife are not. Because of recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, he said, they have to be ready to pack up and leave the country for Mexico.

A recent flurry of ICE apprehensions around the country has sent undocumented immigrants from various countries running to passport offices and their native countries’ consulates for documentation they pray they won’t need.

At the Salvadoran consulate in Dallas, Consul General Jose Mario Mejía Barrera said his office has seen a 25 percent increase in passport applications and child registries in the past month. Mejía Barrera’s consulate serves around 150,000 Salvadorans who live in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“There’s uncertainty and worry among the community. People are realizing they have to file the right paperwork,” Mejía Barrera said. “Children who are born here, with Salvadoran moms or dads, are being registered so they have dual citizenship. Couples are registering their marriages so that they’re valid in El Salvador.”

At the Mexican consulate in Austin, Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Gutiérrez said his office has seen an uptick in the number of applications for passports and birth certificates since the November presidential election. Last month’s ICE activity in Austin scared immigrants more, he said, because non-criminal immigrants were detained — a change from Obama-era policies.

On Friday, Gonzalez Gutiérrez’s consulate will hold its first-ever custody session to help undocumented Mexicans understand how guardianship works in case they have to leave their children with a documented family member or friend. Gonzalez Gutiérrez said immigrants also ask the consulate about property rights, wondering if the U.S. government can confiscate their homes.

“Their questions show the state of anxiety that the community is in,” said Gonzalez Gutiérrez, whose office oversees nearly 450,000 people of Mexican origin in Central Texas. “Up until a few months ago, these questions were unimaginable.”

Two weeks ago, ICE arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants across the nation in what they said was a routine action. But the immigrant community was already on edge because of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric during the presidential campaign, and the ICE actions sent many undocumented families into a panic.

Families wait in line outside Travis County's passport office. Undocumented parents fearing deportation visited the office to get passports for their American children.  | Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Families wait in line outside Travis County’s passport office. Undocumented parents fearing deportation visited the office to get passports for their American children. | Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Behind the Bernals at the Austin passport office, the majority of the line was made up of immigrant families clutching their children’s birth certificates; they waited several hours before being allowed inside the passport center.

For some families, this was the first of two passport lines they had to navigate to ensure their children are correctly documented.

Romina, a Mexican woman who has lived in Austin for 10 years, said she was going to get Mexican passports for her U.S.-born children after they secured their American passports. This is part of her emergency plan, she said, in case she or her husband are deported. Because she’s an undocumented immigrant, she asked to be identified only by her first name.

“Yes, there are some bad immigrants,” she said, “but there are so many more good immigrants who pay taxes. I pay taxes.”

Nancy Howell, manager of Travis County’s passport program, said her office normally serves slightly more than 100 applicants a day. In the past couple of weeks, however, they’ve been serving more than 200, with most lining up outside early in the morning. Most days, she said, her office has to tell some families to come back the next day when the office closes.

On average, she said, it takes between 15 and 30 minutes to serve each family. The office has five to six staffers, but only two are fluent Spanish speakers. Howell said it is the customer’s responsibility to bring a translator.

“We could probably do more if we had more clerks,” she said.

Outside, Anallely Aviles observed her kids, 6 and 4, running around, weary from waiting. Young children are as scared as the adults about the increased deportations, she said.

“They know already because they hear it from us or they hear it in school,” she said in Spanish. “If ICE comes to the door, they know they don’t have to open it and should go hide in the room and try to make no noise.”

Read more

  • A week after immigration agents launched surprise raids in Austin and surrounding areas, hundreds marched downtown in protest, saying fear has engulfed the Central Texas immigrant community.
  • Undocumented immigrant Miguel Angel Torres was on his way to deliver Valentine’s Day chocolates to his daughter last week near Austin. In what his family calls a case of mistaken identity, Torres was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Author:  MARIANA ALFARO – The Texas Tribune

National LGBTQ Organizations Denounce Arrest of Transgender Survivor of Domestic Violence by ICE El Paso

On Thursday, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and Transgender Law Center denounced the arrest by immigration authorities of an undocumented transgender woman who is a survivor of domestic violence, and call for her immediate release.

She was detained last week in an El Paso courthouse immediately after she was granted a protective order against her abusive partner.

NCAVP’s data shows that transgender women experience high rates of domestic violence and often experience discrimination and violence when attempting to access services. Additionally, transgender women in immigration detention often experience sexual violence, maltreatment, and other forms of violence.

Because of these realities, this arrest and detainment is an utterly deplorable and harmful response to her request for help.

This January, Transgender Law Center launched an emergency response project, the Trans Immigrant Defense Effort (TIDE), devoted to expanding legal support for transgender immigrants in the face of new attacks.

“Our government’s actions send the message to transgender people that we are disposable and do not deserve dignity or safety,” said Isa Noyola, Director of Programs at Transgender Law Center. “The community already has limited access to resources when we face violent attacks, particularly by intimate partners. At a time when we grieve murder after murder of transgender women of color, it is unconscionable that a transgender woman would be detained and punished for seeking safety for herself. The community, now more than ever, needs to organize to protect our most vulnerable, in particular transgender immigrant women who are surrounded by violence on a daily basis.”

“Arresting survivors when they are accessing domestic violence protections will only continue to discourage survivors from reaching out for support, especially if they are undocumented,” said Emily Waters, Senior Manager of National Research and Policy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “All survivors, including undocumented transgender survivors, deserve to be able access safe and affirming resources without the additional fear of reprisal by abusive partners and criminalization by state authorities.”

Violation of Protections for Undocumented Survivors

According to the County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers received a tip that the woman who was detained would be in the courthouse that day. Bernal also stated that she was arrested while still in the courthouse.

Bernal suspects that the tip came from Gonzalez’s abusive partner. Both of these actions by ICE violate the confidentiality protections laid out in the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. VAWA provides explicit confidentiality protections for undocumented survivors, including preventing immigration officers from using information provided by abusive partners and preventing officers from making arrests in courthouses if the survivor is there in connection with a protection order case.

“The actions taken by ICE officials to detain a transgender immigrant while she was at the courthouse getting a restraining order against her abuser, based on a “tip” to ICE possibly from her abuser, are not only outrageous, they violate the law,” said Terra Russell Slavin, Esq., Deputy Director of Policy & Community Building at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“The Violence Against Women Act contains specific prohibitions on these type of immigration enforcement actions. The LGBT community, its advocates, and domestic violence activists throughout the country will work tirelessly to ensure that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are able to take legal actions to protect themselves from their abusers. We call on our representatives to immediately investigate the actions of ICE officials in this case and to do everything in their power to ensure this travesty doesn’t happen again.”

VAWA protections are vital for the safety of undocumented survivors of domestic violence. Many undocumented survivors face the threat of deportation when accessing protections that are available to all survivors of domestic violence and this threat is often leveraged by abusive partners.

Domestic Violence and LGBTQ Communities

 According to the most recently released report by NCAVP, of the 13 documented intimate partner violence related homicides of LGBTQ people in 2015, 46% were transgender women, all of whom were transgender women of color.

 From 2014 to 2015, there was an increase in the percentage of LGBTQ undocumented survivors reporting to NCAVP from 4% to 9%.

 Many LGBTQ survivors experience violence and discrimination when accessing intimate partner violence resources. Of those seeking shelter in 2015, 44% were denied with the most common reason being gender identity. Nearly one in three survivors who interacted by police were arrested.

To read NCAVP’s toolkit for the LGBTQ and HIV Affected Intimate Partner Violence, click HERE.

In Apparent Case of Mistaken Identity, Father Caught in ICE Sting

Undocumented immigrant Miguel Angel Torres was on his way to deliver Valentine’s Day chocolates to his daughter last week near Austin. Now, in what his family calls a case of mistaken identity, Torres is in an immigration lock-up near San Antonio.

With Donald Trump in the White House and rumors of widespread law enforcement raids percolating throughout her heavily immigrant community in North Austin, Irma Perez said she decided to help pay off her brother’s unpaid tickets to help him avoid any trouble.

It would lead to her own family’s undoing.

On Friday, Perez got a call from a neighbor with disastrous news: Her husband — not her brother — got picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after dropping off their three daughters at school in Pflugerville.

What began as an apparent case of mistaken identity soon mushroomed into a full-blown family crisis. Their dreams of opening a food truck in North Austin were dashed, and the family abandoned their home because it was now on ICE’s radar. On Monday, their girls, all U.S. citizens, were on their way to an immigrant detention facility in Pearsall, 150 miles from Austin, to see their father.

Miguel Angel Torres, who has lived in Austin for 14 years as an undocumented immigrant, worked as a cook at an Austin restaurant. Perez, his wife, is also undocumented, and so is her brother, Jose Manuel Perez.

Torres was one of an undetermined number of people detained in Texas in the past few days as part of national ICE operations that sent panic through immigrant communities. In a written statement released to reporters Monday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that ICE, in “targeted” operations last week, detained more than 680 individuals nationwide, 75 percent of whom had criminal records, including homicide and sexual abuse.

“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as those who have violated our immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” Kelly said in the statement.

Torres’ family wasn’t expecting him to get caught up in the mix.

“[My husband] is a person who’s never done anything wrong and who complies with the law,” Perez said in her native Spanish. “We don’t know why they detained him. He was driving his own car, not my brother’s. He has nothing to do with my brother.”

On Friday morning, she said ICE officers wearing civilian clothes and driving an unmarked van detained Torres. She said he was on his way to deliver a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates to their youngest daughter when he was stopped by agents who asked if he was Jose Manuel Perez — her brother.

Dana Torres (8), whose father, Miguel Angel Torres, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaving her mother to care for their three daughters on Feb. 12, 2017. | Photo courtesy Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune.
Dana Torres (8), whose father, Miguel Angel Torres, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaving her mother to care for their three daughters on Feb. 12, 2017. | Photo courtesy Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune.

When he said he wasn’t, Irma Perez said, they forced him out of his car anyway and said, “Well, we’re detaining you.”

She says four days before her husband was detained, she provided her own address instead of her brother’s when submitting payment for her brother’s tickets in Manor, a town in Travis County just northeast of Austin.

Lawyers working on her case believe ICE officers waited outside the family’s home thinking Torres was Irma Perez’s brother, who she said had been previously deported.

The Tribune reached out to ICE about the Torres case, and the agency said it was still working on that request as of late Monday afternoon.

The ICE field office in San Antonio, which includes Austin, said Monday the agency detained 51 foreign nationals, 23 with criminal convictions, in the Austin area last week. The Mexican Consulate in Austin reported 44 Mexican citizens were picked up on Thursday and Friday in the Texas capital — a number that included a few whom Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez said happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mark Kinzler, an immigration lawyer who has helped Irma Perez, told The Texas Tribune that “all kind of things look wrong” in the case against her husband.

“They were looking, apparently, for someone else, and he wasn’t that person but then they took him anyway,” Kinzler said.

ICE has criticized immigrant advocates for spreading “false” and “irresponsible” reports of widespread raids in immigrant communities. But Kinzler said the Torres detention fits a pattern of increased enforcement that goes beyond immigrants with criminal records.

“Even though ICE’s PR campaign is that they’re picking up criminals and picking up people with prior deports, and I’m sure some of them are, it already seems like a lot of them are not those people,” Kinzler said. “People who work every day and try to take care of their families are getting swept up [too].”

After the call from the neighbor alerting her to her husband’s detention, Perez said she immediately began looking for him. She and her parents spent hours trying to track him down before she finally got a call from a toll-free number. It was her husband telling her to go pick up the car he left behind.

Ever since, Irma Perez said she has remained close to a phone, waiting for more news from her husband.

“I’m in shock because we always saw this in the news and it only happened to other people,” she said. “It had never happened in my family, and it feels awful because it changes your life.”

Kinzler said they can expect at least two weeks of legal procedures to get Torres out of detention. However, the timing depends on how full the court is.

“Because of the time he’s been here, because he has a clean history and U.S. citizen kids, I will be able to get him out on a bond,” Kinzler said.

Perez said her family will have to start rounding up money to free her husband and pay for attorney’s fees as he fights removal from the country.

Irma Perez's husband, Miguel Angel Torres was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaving Irma to care for their three daughters Melani (12), Dana (8), and Jamilet (6). Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune.
Irma Perez’s husband, Miguel Angel Torres was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaving Irma to care for their three daughters Melani (12), Dana (8), and Jamilet (6). Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune.

Immigration lawyers advised Perez and her family to leave their home since ICE has their address on record. On Friday night, she moved her children and parents, who live with her, into her sister’s house.

Friday was the day Torres was going to open his own food truck, Sabor del Rancho, a dream his family said he’d nourished for years. Now, the trailer sits empty on North Lamar.

The family went to church Sunday and sang in the choir as they regularly do — without Torres, who was supposed to do his first solo performance at church. After mass, Irma and her daughters returned to her sister’s home. Sitting next to a candlelit altar with a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, they tearfully retold how quickly their lives had been turned upside down.

Torres’ 12-year-old daughter Melani — who is part of a college readiness program and hopes to become a computer engineer one day — said her father would always drop her off and pick her up from school, so she was surprised when her mother picked her up on Friday.

“I saw her with teary eyes, and she said, ‘You have no idea what happened,'” Melani said, speaking in both Spanish and English during the interview. “I thought she was kidding because my dad would never be caught by ICE, but then our neighbor confirmed the news, and my sisters and I started crying.”

Authors:   MARIANA ALFARO AND JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Immigrants Picked Up, but No Massive Raids, Authorities Say

U.S. and Mexican authorities are pushing back against reports of widespread raids that have sown panic in immigrant communities. But the “targeted operation” launched in recent days by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appears to be the largest of its kind since President Donald Trump took office.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune on Saturday, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, shot down social media reports suggesting that ICE had set up traffic checkpoints or was rounding up immigrants indiscriminately. ICE called the reports of massive round-ups “false, dangerous and irresponsible,” the New York Times reported.

In Austin, a liberal enclave with a brand new “sanctuary” policy at the local jail, Gonzalez Gutierrez said the raid was the most extensive he’d seen since he arrived in the Texas capital almost two years ago. He said some of those apprehended by ICE were not the original targets of the U.S. operation. All told there were 44 Mexican nationals apprehended in the Austin area on Thursday and Friday, he said. Typically the agency picks up a handful per day. It’s not clear how many immigrants from other countries may have been picked up in the operation.

Gonzales Gutierrez said ICE officials informed the consulate that they “are looking for specific persons that… have to be detained because they have failed to honor a deportation order or because they have a DWI-related warrant or because of domestic violence. It’s a wide range of issues.”

In some cases, he said some of the Mexican nationals who were with the targeted immigrants also got detained; he said that has happened in past operations.

“Whenever they find their target, for example in their vehicles, if in that same vehicle there [are] more people who are undocumented or who they presume are undocumented, then they detain everybody,” he said. “And so there [are] a few of our nationals that were caught up because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

While Gonzalez Gutierrez expressed concern about the specter of a large operation targeting immigrants, he said it’s important to let people know that is not what’s happening now.

“This is not the widespread massive raids that are sometimes described in social media,” he said. “We have found no evidence of those workplace raids, or school raids, [or] massive raids outside of hospitals that people were talking about in social media.”

Central Texas was prominently featured in several national news stories with unconfirmed reports of immigrant raids, vehicle checkpoints and random ID checks.

And in the last two days, immigrant lawyers and advocacy groups have sounded alarms in multiple cities over what they called unusual enforcement activity by ICE. In Los Angeles, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “URGENT: ICE conducted multiple raids of homes across the city.” Protests erupted soon after.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a news conference in California Friday night that the reports were flat wrong, according to local media reports.

“They’re not rounding anyone up,” Kelly said. “The people that ICE apprehend are people who are illegal, and then some.”

According to an ICE statement released to the news media in California, at least 160 people were apprehended over five days in the region as part of a routine “enforcement surge” targeting undocumented immigrants wanted by the agency. Of those, 150 had criminal records and five had removal orders, according to the reports.

KABC-TV in Los Angeles reported that 95 percent of the people detained in Southern California by ICE were men. Included were an MS-13 gang member from El Salvador, a Brazilian national wanted for cocaine trafficking and an Australian convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, the station said.

Texas Tribune reporter Cassandra Pollock contributed to this story.

Author:  JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Reports of Immigration Raids Whip across Texas, but Details are Sparse

Immigrant communities in Texas and nationwide are swirling with reports of large-scale immigration enforcement by federal agents, but so far details are scant and ICE says its activities are routine.

Reports of immigration raids swept across Texas and the rest of the nation Friday, sparking protests and press conferences. But in Austin and elsewhere, it was difficult to find hard evidence of actual raids, and federal officials insisted their agents were simply conducting routine enforcement.

Immigrant lawyers and advocacy groups have sounded alarms in multiple cities over what they called unusual enforcement activity by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “URGENT: ICE conducted multiple raids of homes across the city.” Protests erupted soon after.

The Washington Post reported sweeping immigration raids in at least six states, including Texas. Quoting immigration activists, the Post reported raids in Austin, Dallas and Pflugerville, and said there were also reports of an ICE checkpoint in Austin that targeted immigrants for random ID checks. But it provided few details about specific cases.

Details have also been scant in Austin, where a pair of arrests following traffic stops by ICE agents led to a downtown protest and a press conference denouncing ICE activities. The Mexican Consulate told the Austin American-Statesman that ICE detained 44 Mexican immigrants Thursday and Friday — compared to four or five a day typically — but it didn’t indicate the circumstances surrounding the detentions.

Following reports that an immigration officer suffered minor injuries after arresting an undocumented immigrant in North Austin, Austin City Council members Greg Casar and Delia Garza spoke to reporters outside the Little Walnut Creek public library, joined by representatives of the Worker’s Defense Project, Education Austin, and the Texas chapter of the AFL-CIO.

“This is something very different than what we’ve seen before,” Casar said. “[Donald] Trump and allies will do everything they can to divide Americans and demonize communities. It’s clear people like Trump try to get political gain by creating fear and hostility — these ICE actions magnify that fear.”

In a statement on Facebook Friday morning, Casar said his office had confirmed “a large amount of [ICE] actions in Austin in the last 24 hours.”

Casar said he’s received several calls from constituents expressing fear about the situation, but he couldn’t offer details on ICE actions beyond a Friday arrest in North Austin. Austin police told the Austin American-Statesman that an ICE agent made a traffic stop and was trying to arrest a person in the vehicle when the suspect’s family members tried to intervene.

“We don’t understand it,” Garza said, “but the ripple effect is… it’s invited fear in the community.”

The other reported arrest happened in East Austin, where a Honduran woman called an immigrant support group to report that ICE agents had pulled over and detained her husband on Thursday; a protest followed at a downtown federal building, the Statesman reported.

ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda told the Tribune that the agency doesn’t conduct random sweeps and its enforcement actions are based on investigative leads. “By removing from the streets criminal aliens and other threats to the public, ICE helps improve public safety,” Pruneda said.

San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro said Friday that ICE had confirmed to him that the agency was conducting a “targeted operation” in parts of Texas. 

“I have been informed by ICE that the agency’s San Antonio field office has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check,” Castro said in a written statement. “I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state. I will continue to monitor this situation.”

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, said it was “outrageous” that two elected officials in Austin publicly backed undocumented immigrants over law enforcement.

“Not only does questioning law enforcement put our communities at risk,” Buckingham said in a written statement, “it paints a bull’s-eye on the backs of the brave men and women sworn to protect us under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Tensions in Texas immigrant communities have risen since Trump became president — after campaigning on promises to build a border wall and deport undocumented immigrants en masse — and the state Legislature began debating bills to ban so-called “sanctuary cities.” Earlier this week, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 4 that would penalize local governments that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials to enforce immigration laws.

Separately, newly-elected Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez launched a policy last month to reduce the county’s cooperation with federal immigration officials, and Gov. Greg Abbott soon after carried out his threat to strip $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from Travis County.

Author:  CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

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