AUSTIN (KXAN) – Six protesters were jailed Monday after they were arrested for forming a human chain to block an exit at the Travis County Jail in an effort to stop undocumented immigrants from being deported.
“The trumped up charge of blocking a highway for an action that took place entirely on a sidewalk speaks to the Sheriff’s desire to keep this program hidden and silence the voices of those most impacted by Travis County residents who have been impacted by his deportation program,” said Alejandro Caceres, Executive Director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalicion.
The six people arrested are Lindsay J. Porter, Nancy Rodriguez, Maribel Falcon, Rocio Villalobos, Piper Madison and Cristina Parker. Authorities charged them with Criminal Trespassing and Interfering with Public Duty for locking arms in front of the Travis County Jail garage door authorities use to transfer detained illegal immigrants. From Travis County Jail, they are taken to a federal building where they are held until Immigration and Customs Enforcement picks them up under the Secure Communities program.
One of the people held inside the jail for deportation was Margarita Sanchez’ uncle. Sanchez she said her uncle was pulled over when he was driving in a car with his son, but he was not wearing a seat belt. It was then that the police officer asked him for his immigration papers, but he could only present papers for the boy, so Sanchez’ uncle ended up being deported.
“Now my little cousin is left without a dad, their mom is left alone to care for them, and it’s not fair,” Sanchez said. “It’s an injustice that this is happening to a lot of kids left without fathers.”
On average, 19 immigrants are deported from Travis County a week since 2009, according to ICE. Protesters want the Travis County Sheriff’s office to revisit its Secure Communities enforcement policy and stop the deportations.
According to a 2013 report from the Texas Commission, the cost for holding an immigrant in the Travis County Jail is $106 a day.
Protestors met with the office of Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton last week to request he halt deportations and review the effectiveness of the Secure Communities program. This request was rejected.
Nora de la Rosa with the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition said many communities across they country said they would not comply with the Secure Communities program in an effort to stand by their immigrant communities.
“In 2014 in the city of Austin we should not be tearing families apart,” de la Rosa said. “Shame on the Travis County Sheriff’s Office for doing it when they don’t have to.”