In February, more than 50 Mexican immigrants were arrested in the Austin area by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as part of a nationwide crackdown by the federal government. Panicked community members have taken to their homes for fear of detainment.
A number of nonprofits that serve this community are seeing their resources stretched to serve the growing number of people who need services, while others are seeing fewer clients who are staying away for fear of ICE.
In response, national and local nonprofits are distributing lists of resources where those in need can obtain legal help. They also recommend that people concerned with deportation or a run-in with ICE plan ahead, remain calm but silent in interactions with ICE, and secure either private or, through the organizations below, good legal counsel.
“We suggest folks be prepared in terms of putting together documents that may help them should they get detained,” said Grassroots Leadership executive director Bob Libal. “Consulting with an attorney is a good idea, but there are steps folks can take to put together some of their information to help them achieve bond should they be detained.”
We’ve put together a list of organizations that are working to help immigrants fearing ICE operations, as well as ways to help.
Information and resources for immigrants
United We Dream Graphic Cards
One of the most widely shared pieces of information is the United We Dream graphics cards that explain what people should do if they come into contact with ICE agents. They’ve been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish, and list protocol to follow if ICE comes knocking. The cards stress to keep doors closed, remain silent, refrain from signing any paperwork, record and report all interactions with agents, and immediately contact a trusted attorney.
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has a page devoted to what people should do in the event of a raid or if they are detained by immigration officials. Another page on traffic stops advises those stopped by an officer in public to stay calm, avoid arguing with officers, and record the badge and patrol card number of any officer they encounter.
Texas Here to Stay Coalition
The Texas Here to Stay Coalition is hosting Know Your Rights meetings with free legal advice. The next one is scheduled for March 11 at Dobie Middle School.
Catholic Legal Immigration
Catholic Legal Immigration, Inc. that highlights areas where immigrations officials generally do not act, such as hospital, schools, religious halls, funerals, weddings, or other demonstrations. It also lists a number of “know your rights” informational pages on its site. The group Ice Out of Austin is running a hotline for those who need assistance at 512-270-1515.
Immigrant Services Network of Austin
The Immigrant Service Network has an expansive list of members that offer immigration legal services in Austin, Travis County, and beyond.
AISD Office of Refugee/Immigrant Services
In response to ICE operations leading to Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz released a resolution to “create the safest possible environment” for students and staff. It also offers information on its site with contact information for the AISD Refugee Support Office, the AISD International Welcome Center, and other programs that work together to provide social support, interpretation help, and other services.
How to support immigrant-services organization
“I definitely think this is a time to give to communities that are in need,” Libal said. “There are interconnected issues, issues with refugees and resettlement, and those agencies are also in some level of uncertainty given the announcements about cutting off funding, perhaps banning refugees altogether for a certain period of time. So groups like Caritas and Refugee Services of Texas and others are also in need right now.”
Casa Marianella is an East Austin emergency shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers. Find a list of wishlist items here. Its sister home for women and children, Posada Esperanza, has a wishlist on its website, too. Donations of clothes, household items, and money are also welcome.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas Immigration Legal Services
Staff at the Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services offer help with family-based immigration, permanent resident card replacement or renewal, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, among other services. City Council granted the group $200,000 in emergency funds last week, which will allow it to serve 50 more people per month. Even with that, the organization reports demand is higher than ever.
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
RAICES is a nonprofit serving the immigrant and refugee communities across Texas. It asks for donations that will support the women and children in the Karnes and Dilley family detention centers. Fund a family’s legal consultation for $25, a work permit application for $250, or an asylum application with a $500 donation.
Travis County #StrongerTogether
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez launched this fundraiser in an effort to continue programs funded by criminal justice division grants. That funding was cut off by Gov. Greg Abbott because of Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy on cooperating with ICE.
Workers Defense Project
The nonprofit that fights for the rights and welfare of construction workers is another organization that could use donations and volunteers right now. In a recent fundraising email, Executive Director José P. Garza described the last month as “dizzying.” He stressed that he didn’t know how long the situation would last, but “as long as it does, we will stand with our members.”