Trump's Mass Deportation Threat: Austin Responds

Mayor Adler: “We will take steps to mobilize community partners and resources”

Mayor Steve Adler
Mayor Steve Adler (Photo by John Anderson)

The Trump administration is threatening to arrest and deport "millions" of undocumented immigrants beginning next week, in raids that would presumably threaten many Austin residents. Responding to the threats, Mayor Steve Adler said that city officials are committed to keeping "everybody who lives here safe." But he acknowledged that under state law, the city cannot interfere "with federal officials doing their job."

The latest threats began with a June 17 Donald Trump tweet: "Next week ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in."

Subsequent reporting suggests that confidential plans for nationwide raids have been in progress for weeks – but it's not clear if ICE, strained by its growing responsibilities on the Mexican border, has sufficient resources for a major nationwide action.

Cristina Tzintzún, executive director of Latinx rights organization Jolt, said the threats "are meant to drive Trump's base, while driving fear into our communities." Tzintzún noted that Trump's anti-immigrant policies "led to a record turnout of Latinos in the last [midterm] election," and she expects that "massive backlash" to continue. As for the potential response of local officials, she said, "By no means should they facilitate such activities."

In a brief conversation Tuesday, Adler said the ability of local officials to resist ICE actions is limited. "We're certainly not going to interfere with the federal officials doing their job, as is the law in this state. But we can help make sure that people know their constitutional rights, and that they know the law." Adler said that Senate Bill 4, the 2017 Texas law banning "sanctuary cities," forbids any interference with federal enforcement and forbids officials from requesting that local police not cooperate. City Council did pass an ordinance requiring tracking of any cooperation, and Adler said, "The times that that has happened has been only a couple of occasions, under exigent circumstances." (For more, see "Freedom Cities," Jun. 21) The mayor subsequently provided a more formal statement, which reads:

"While it's unclear how seriously to take the president's tweets regarding a deportation effort, whenever Austinites fear for their safety based on immigration status, we will take steps to mobilize community partners and resources around three key goals: Making sure people know their rights; helping everyone who needs a lawyer get connected to legal aid; clarifying for the broader community what APD is and is not obligated to do in conjunction with ICE actions.

"Our commitment to a safe and just city is not radical; these various and coordinated response measures will fall squarely within our legal obligations under SB 4. A safe city is a just city. And we will remain true to those values."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Immigration
A Year After Austin's Passage of the Freedom Cities Policies, Activists Urge APD to Do Better
A Year After Austin's Passage of the Freedom Cities Policies, Activists Urge APD to Do Better
Organizations applaud headway made, but say there's more work to be done

Mary Tuma, June 21, 2019

Austin Struggles to Adjust as SB 4 Takes Its Toll on Immigrants
Austin Struggles to Adjust as SB 4 Takes Its Toll on Immigrants
"We are not safer as a community when victims are running away from us rather than coming to us."

Mary Tuma, April 5, 2019

More by Michael King
Wendy Davis' Decision to Run for Congress on Hold
Wendy Davis' Decision to Run for Congress on Hold
CD 21 decision not yet ready for prime time

July 19, 2019

Feds Settle Lakeway Hospital Fraud Claims
Feds Settle Lakeway Hospital Fraud Claims
Still, millions in additional claims remain unresolved

July 19, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Immigration, Trump administration, Steve Adler, ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cristina Tzintzún, Jolt, Senate Bill 4, Austin Police Department

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle