Austin City Council wants to inform undocumented immigrants of their rights

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mayor Steve Adler and some city council members are looking at a new way to help protect undocumented immigrants living in Austin.

Under Senate Bill 4, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law about one year ago, local police officers can ask anyone they detain or arrest about their immigration status, and cities can’t enact their own rules to stop that from happening. 

A resolution Council Members Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Adler and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo are sponsoring asks the Austin Police Department to make sure people know what their rights are if they’re being questioned about their immigration status. Casar told us, “People have the right to not answer those questions about immigration status.”

The resolution asks:

  • The city manager work with Chief Brian Manley to take necessary and appropriate steps to reinforce constitutional and legal protections for detainees and arrestees who might be affected by Senate Bill 4.
  • To make sure policing resources are prioritized, and that requests for federal immigration enforcement assistance are appropriately vetted and scrutinized at higher levels.
  • To inform the City Council of requests or authorization of City policing resources for premeditated civil immigration enforcement.
  • To send a quarterly memorandum to City Council that provides data concerning the use of City resources for immigration enforcement.

Casar went on to say, “If police officers in Austin are going to ask anyone to show them their papers, that police officer also has to tell that resident that they have a Constitutional right to not answer any questions about their immigration status and that they can’t be arrested for not answering those questions.”

Claudia Yoli is a DACA recipient who lives in Austin. She said she’s been detained at an airport. She was questioned for four hours.

“I panicked to be quite frank,” Yoli said. But she knew to ask for attorneys because she works as an advocate for immigrants. But she said she worries about other immigrants who may not know.

While some people hope the resolution will help protect immigrants by informing them of their rights, others argue a local city council shouldn’t have any role in how local police departments do their work.

“Why make politics part of law enforcement, what we do, enforcing our immigration laws in the state of Texas and in this country?” said Jackson County Sheriff AJ Louderback. He’s also legislative director for Sheriff’s Association of Texas.

“Let’s let law enforcement do what we’re paid to do and be professional about it,” Louderback said.

Casar said he has spoken with Manley about the resolution.

Austin residents will get a chance to speak about the resolution at the June 14 city council meeting.

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