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Late last night, the Austin City Council voted unanimously to pass Freedom City resolutions, policies that will address the city’s racial disparity in policing, require full vetting and reporting on requests by ICE for Austin Police Department resources, and ensure officers who ask about immigration status inform people of their right to not answer and complete a report explaining the encounter. After a campaign led by United We Dream, Grassroots Leadership, the Workers Defense Project, and many more community members, Austin has taken an important first step in making the city more equitable for people of color.
Yesterday’s vote is a victory that should be the first of many as other cities throughout the state are looking to take similar steps to ensure that every resident is safe and free from unjust arrests and questioning of their immigration status. Last year, the Texas legislature passed SB 4, an anti-immigrant law that is now in effect, and the repercussions are being felt throughout immigrant communities in the state.
Daniel Candelaria, Houston resident and Advocacy organizer with United We Dream said:
The policies passed by Austin this week represent the kind of leadership that United We Dream Houston and coalition partners will continue to seek from Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, police chief Acevedo and Sheriff Gonzalez. It will never be enough to say that you move in solidarity with immigrants and communities of color when your jails feed the deportation agenda of sick politicians and you lack the policies to support your words of support. It’s been over a year since the “Welcoming Houston” policies were introduced and Houston’s immigrant community can not continue to wait while our families are being separated. We need action now!
Carolina Canizales, Texas Campaign Strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center said,
The breakthroughs we’re seeing in cities like Austin show that local policy-making can have progressive, lasting impact and serves as the best defense for our communities in an era where leadership at the state and federal level has failed our nation’s immigrants. City lawmakers must work with local coalitions, like SA Stands, to enact policies that reduce discretionary arrests of immigrants and uphold constitutional rights for all poor communities of color, including immigrants in San Antonio. This is a prime opportunity for the city of San Antonio to step up and lead the way–it’s now or never.
Below is an excerpt from KVUE outlining the vote. Find the piece in its entirety here.
AUSTIN — Things got a little tense Thursday night at a packed Austin City Council meeting.
Council members unanimously approved a pair of “Freedom City” resolutions, which makes Austin the first “Freedom City” in the state of Texas. The resolutions pinpoint racial disparities in Austin police arrests and how officers interact with undocumented immigrants.
More than 100 people signed up to speak on the proposal before council members made their final vote early in the morning of June 15. Applause broke out when members approved the resolutions.
Of the 100 people who spoke last night was the head of the Austin Police Association, Ken Casaday.
While he said he supported the ordinance, he did not support claims and social media posts by Council Member Greg Casar. Casar has said that Austin police arrested African Americans at an officer’s discretion at more than double the rate of white and Latino residents.