Author Archives: Rebecca Larsen

Adelante

21 Sep 17
Rebecca Larsen
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Join us on Tuesday, October 3, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. to connect with others and make a plan for this important season. If you are new to this group or have not been around in a bit, this is the perfect time to engage! You will hear about the work we are doing, and how you can plug in your unique interests and skills. I cannot stress this enough… We need YOU! We all have a unique, critical role. Together, we can make Waco a more welcoming community.

All people – immigrants, their families, and allies – are welcome to this event! If you feel like you’re completely new to this, don’t worry. We’ll share info to get everyone up to speed and cast vision for the future and how we in Waco can make a difference.

Mental Health Toolkit

05 Sep 17
Rebecca Larsen
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A mental health toolkit for these difficult times. Take care of yourselves and reach out if you need to.

Thank you to Defend DACA for this toolkit. Click here.

Stop the Repeal of DACA

02 Sep 17
Rebecca Larsen
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Phone calls and pressure seem to be working! Call the numbers below to stop the repeal of DACA.

Embedded

Judge temporarily blocks immigration enforcement law

30 Aug 17
Rebecca Larsen
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A federal district judge on Wednesday ruled against the state of Texas and halted a controversial state-based immigration enforcement law just days before it was scheduled to go into effect.

Full Story on Texas Tribune 

BY JULIÁN AGUILAR

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction of Senate Bill 4, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key legislative priorities that seeks to outlaw “sanctuary” entities, the common term for governments that don’t enforce federal immigration laws.

As passed, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

Garcia halted the part of the bill that required jail officials to honor all detainers, and another that prohibits “a pattern or practice that ‘materially limits’ the enforcement of immigration laws.”

The detainer provision, he said, would violate the Fourth Amendment

Garcia did let stand one of the most controversial portions of the law — allowing police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain.

Because the inquiry into status isn’t a prolonged detention, he said, it wasn’t enjoined. But he explained that officers who make the inquiry are limited in what they can do with the information.

“If during a lawful detention or arrest an officer obtains information that a detained or arrested individual is undocumented he may not arrest the individual on this basis,” he said, adding that the officer is not required to ask the question. But he said if the officer feels like they should, they can only share the information.

“In sum, SB 4 gives local officers discretion to inquire and share information, but it does not provide them with discretion to act upon the information that they may obtain,” he wrote in a footnote to his 94-page ruling.

The bill was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, but opponents of the legislation, including the cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Cenizo, as well as Maverick and El Paso counties and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued the bill violates several provisions of the Constitution. Garcia’s decision means the bill is on hold until that issue is decided or until the preliminary injunction is appealed.

His decision is a temporary but significant blow to Abbott and other Republican backers of the bill who said it would help keep Texans safe from undocumented immigrants that have been arrested on criminal charges but released from custody by sheriffs or other elected officials who refuse to hold the alleged criminals for possible deportation.

Abbott on Wednesday night promised an immediate appeal.

“Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” he said in a statement. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities. U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton added: “Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

In his ruling, Garcia also noted the injunction would serve the public and cited the overwhelming opposition to the bill during public testimony at the Capitol.

“The public interest in protecting constitutional rights, maintaining trust in local law enforcement and avoiding the heavy burdens that SB4 imposes on local entities will be served by enjoining these portions of SB4,” he said.

In another footnote, Garcia said that placing the law on hold would also benefit the state due to the sheer number of subsequent lawsuits that would likely follow if the legislation stood.

“If SB4 is implemented the state will begin spending public funds to enforce SB4 against local entities that will also spend public funds to defend themselves,” he said. “Both state and local entities will also need to expend public funds to defend against spin off litigation.”

Opponents of the law cheered the injunction.

“The court was right to strike down virtually all of this patently unconstitutional law. Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe,” said Terri Burke, the executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “That’s why police chiefs and mayors themselves were among its harshest critics — they recognized it would harm, not help, their communities.”

Waco Immigrants Rally – May 6th!

25 Apr 17
Rebecca Larsen
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In solidarity with other immigrant marches and rallies happening across the country, join Waco Immigrants Alliance as we celebrate our immigrant community. It will be a gathering that honors Waco’s rich history of immigrant rights activism and unifies us to continue to fight for reform, justice, and making our community welcoming!

https://www.facebook.com/events/197188490788637/

Hutto Detention Visitation Training

19 Apr 17
Rebecca Larsen
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Join us at our next monthly general meeting on May 2nd! Instead of our usual meeting, we will be training to visit women that are in immigrant detention. Even if you’re not sure if you can go on visits, we will be learning about our immigration system, the differences between refugee and asylee status, and much more! All are welcome.

Welcoming Communities

21 Jan 17
Rebecca Larsen
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January 29th 2017 at 4PM
Mission Waco Chapel
1226 Washington Ave. Waco, TX

How can we stand with our immigrant neighbors in Waco? Come on January 29th at 4pm to the Mission Waco Chapel (1226 Washington Avenue) to hear from Alejandro Caceres and Jake Crowther from Grassroots Leadership & the Austin Sanctuary Movement about their experience organizing alongside immigrants. They will share both policy and non-policy ideas for community members & churches. Come to learn more and get connected!

Nonprofit expands immigration services to Waco

14 Jan 17
Rebecca Larsen
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Waco Tribune 
By Shelly Conlon
Full Story here

A Waco resident is helping Austin- and San Antonio-based nonprofit group American Gateways expand services to protect immigrants in the Waco area.

American Gateways’ staff attorney, Anali Looper, opened an office Monday at Waco’s Good Neighbor House, 2301 Colcord Ave., to take on a variety of immigration cases. The Good Neighbor House serves as a safe space to connect community members with local resources.

“I was working at Habitat for Humanity and really decided I wanted to contribute something, anything, to the immigrant population, and I realized I thought my skill set would be best used as an immigration lawyer,” Looper said. “I’ve had several people encourage me in that direction, and so I’ve been working in Austin with American Gateways for the last two years and really, all along, hoping to bring them here.”

The decision to expand comes at a time of anxiety and worry across the country after President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on promises to build a border wall, strictly enforce immigration laws and detain people waiting on immigration hearings. Trump’s inauguration is Friday.

“While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they will ever pay in,” Trump said during an Aug. 31, 2016, rally in Arizona.

“But these facts are never reported. Instead, the media and my opponent discuss one thing and only this one thing: the needs of people living here illegally.

“The truth is, the central issue is not the needs of the 11 million illegal immigrants or however many there may be. That has never been the central issue. It will never be the central issue,” Trump said.

While she is waiting to see what the new president will do once he takes office, Looper said American Gateways has seen an increase in cases since Election Day.

“I spent that Wednesday just returning phone calls to people who were scared and wondering what was going to happen,” Looper said. “There’s just a huge need everywhere in the country for qualified immigration practitioners to help people. Unfortunately, what often happens when there’s not enough attorneys or accredited representatives who help with immigration cases is something called notario fraud: basically, notary publics who help people with their immigration cases.

‘We need more’

“It’s unauthorized and it’s illegal for them to do that, and often they severely mess up people’s cases and can really hurt people’s chances. . . . Yes, the election does mean more people need help, but I think all along there’s been a great need here in Waco, and there are some folks helping, but we need more to do that.”

Looper opened the office with the help of a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, which allows her to spend part of the week in Waco and part of the week in Austin, working primarily on crime victims’ visas and family-based immigration cases, she said.

Barbara Bridgewater, a case manager with Compassion Ministries, said she couldn’t agree more with Looper’s assessment of Waco’s need for additional immigration services. She and Looper attended church together for 19 years, and Bridgewater serves as president of the board for the Good Neighbor House. At Compassion Ministries, which is a transitional housing facility, Bridgewater helps Spanish-speaking families and residents working toward their GED.

There are many qualified lawyers in Waco, but they tend to not know enough about immigration, Bridgewater said. Looper’s arrival has empowered Compassion to connect clients with services for a broader range of immigration issues.

Looper, who attended Waco High School, said she wants to get to a point when she can be in Waco full time and handle a couple hundred cases a year, instead of commuting back and forth to Austin. Until she can find permanent funding to support the Waco operation, she anticipates being in town Mondays and Fridays, but times could change from week to week, she said.

“Now there’s some hope, and we know Anali can’t solve all the immigration issues in Waco, Texas. I know that,” Bridgewater said. “But there are some she can work on, and what I find is that it offers some hope in this kind of big, vast sea of things that are both overwhelming and sometimes appear hopeless.”

For more information, call Looper at 512-806-6531 or email her at analig@americangateways.org.

En Español