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."

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

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