Condemn the crisis manufactured by Trump administration “Zero Tolerance” policy; Call on local, state and federal officials to block abusive conditions and family separation
Houston, TX – Today, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly opposed a new Houston immigrant children’s facility. The mayor joins calls by Houston immigrants, legal advocates and service providers to local officials, state representatives, and members of Congress to take explicit action to block considerations for any new immigrant child facilities. The proposed facility is the result of the new federal practice of tearing apart and imprisoning asylum-seeking families, a practice condemned by the immigrant community, advocates and people of conscience.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“We are in the midst of a manufactured crisis that is creating a false need for a new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in Houston. While the service providers stand ready to help families impacted by family separation and we welcome these families in Houston, we reject the notion that we should enable the build-out of the detention system. The Mayor seemed to suggest he would be okay with parents and children being detained together, but we strongly believe that asylum seekers should never be imprisoned while seeking refuge in the United States, and separating children from their parents is a cruel tactic to deter immigrants from exercising their rights to seek asylum.”
Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“There are children in detention facilities left to fend for themselves, trembling and traumatized, because of an administration that has chosen to pull them from the arms of their parents to make a political statement. Children will not be used as pawns, and Houston will not allow kidnappers to set up in our city and continue destroying families. We call on Harris County and Texas leadership to take any and all action against facilities like this that exist solely because the Trump administration has made the callous and unthinkable decision to separate and imprison families seeking refuge from terror. Families deserve to be reunited immediately and granted the asylum they seek. Family destruction is what happens when ICE and CBP continue to go unchecked and they must be abolished now.”
Claudia Aguirre, President and CEO, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“BakerRipley does not support families being torn apart who are fleeing to our southern border for safety. Our organization is committed to providing direct legal representation to separated families housed in Houston area detention centers. And we are working with state-wide and national coalitions to educate the community about the impacts of this policy. BakerRipley will continue to advocate for the families who come to this region – taking action to keep welcome alive. As a nation, we desperately need sensible and comprehensive immigration reform. We need pragmatic solutions to address this issue- end the immediate cruelty to children and deal fairly and justly with people seeking asylum.”
Astrid Dominguez, Director, ACLU Border Rights Center, said:
“We stand firm with Mayor Turner in his opposition to President Trump’s monstrous and morally irredeemable family separation policy, and we will continue to work until that policy is consigned to the scrap heap of history where it belongs.”
Mary Moreno, communications director of the Texas Organizing Project, said:
“On a day when we’re celebrating the delayed ending of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth, it’s heartbreaking that we’re still fighting for liberation, and even sadder that it’s the liberation of children. This is America’s eternal struggle, living up to its values. Although we have never achieved that aspiration of equality and fairness for all, we’ve never stopped fighting, hoping. Today, we stand with Mayor Turner in rejecting Trump’s manufactured crisis, and stand with the immigrants who are running from danger and despair.”
Daniel J. Cohen, President, Indivisible Houston, said:
“Accepting the overflow from Trump’s concentration camps and housing them on Emancipation Avenue, down the street from Minute Maid Park, home of the world champion Houston Astros, is the most unwelcoming, anti-family statement Houston could possibly make. The People are rightfully enraged by the murder, mass trials, and terrorizing of communities and anti-Constitutional commoditization of children for political gain. We are organized to fight the deportation machine.”
Mario Salinas, Civic Engagement Coordinator, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, said:
“This is a manufactured crisis resulting from the administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, which has seen a record number of children stripped from their loved ones and put into rushed facilities, that may not be equipped to deal with their needs. The trauma these children are experiencing could be lessened by the administration today. Yet they choose to play political games with young people who are seeking refuge in a nation that was once known for compassionate values. We, as the most diverse city in the nation, must fight back.”
Natalia Cornelio, Criminal Justice Reform Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said:
“Every day, since May 2018, the federal government has been arresting migrating families and taking children away from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Thousands of children have been taken from their parents under this policy. This is unprecedented, unnecessary, and cruel. We oppose this unconscionable policy, and we must oppose the building of additional facilities that enable it to continue. Thank you, Mayor Turner, for taking a step in the right direction on this national, humanitarian crisis. We hope that our other local, state, and national leaders join you, that this policy stops immediately, and that the separated families be reunited at once.”
The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) is a consortium of immigration legal services providers and immigrant rights advocates and stakeholders. More information is available at www.houstonimmigration.org.
Additional information about United We Dream is available at unitedwedream.org
Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.
In August of 2016, the City of Houston, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers) and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative launched the Welcoming Houston initiative, a multi-sector strategic planning effort focused on welcoming and integrating new Americans.
The mission of Welcoming Houston is to recommend and implement policies and programs that foster the integration of immigrants and refugees into the civic, social, and economic fabric of Houston. This document represents the first step in this mission. The strategic plan and detailed recommendations below call upon public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders to work collaboratively to ensure that Houston is not merely diverse, but pluralistic and committed to equity.
The Welcoming Houston recommendations were compiled with the input of more than 100 individuals, including a 39-member Task Force, 50+ community members and civic leaders across committees covering six different topic areas, a Project Team, and several volunteers. Welcoming Houston participants include immigrant and native-born voices, refugees, documented and undocumented individuals. It also includes those who work with asylees and asylum seekers as well as victims of human trafficking, the LGBTQI community, faith leaders, persons of all abilities, academics and researchers, civil servants, and individuals from the private sector and the education sector. The Task Force also administered a web- and paper-based survey and focus groups to garner ground-level input from immigrant community members.
The planning effort was supported by the Gateways for Growth Challenge, an initiative of Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) and Welcoming America. Houston was one of 20 communities nationwide selected to receive support for immigrant integration planning. We thank NAE and Welcoming America for their assistance in this work.
The implementation of these recommendations will require ongoing collaboration and communication among all stakeholders, accountability measures, transparent metrics, and direct engagement with immigrant individuals and families across Houston. The Collaborative is working on a number of the recommendations as part of its ongoing work to provide high quality legal services to low-income immigrants in Houston.
December 12, 2016 – At a press conference today, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, reiterated that Houston – the most diverse city in the country – is a welcoming and safe place for all who live here.
“The Collaborative supports the Mayor’s commitment to create and uphold policies that assure the safety and well-being of all Houstonians,” says Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) Legal Director Andrea Guttin. “As a key partner in the Welcoming Houston initiative, HILSC is working to ensure that the legal and social needs of the immigrant and refugee communities in Houston are met.”
Houston is a city of immigrants. Their history is deeply rooted in our city. They are our neighbors; they run many small businesses and work in all of Houston’s diverse industries; they are the families at our schools, churches, temples and mosques. One out of every four Houstonians was born outside of the United States. Attacks on immigrants and other marginalized communities are attacks on working Houston families. HILSC applauds the Mayor’s pledge to protect everyone – whether Latino, Black, LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrant, refugee, disabled, or none of the above – from hate, discrimination, and other forms of mistreatment.
As members of HILSC, we will continue to provide legal and other services to immigrant and refugee families and other vulnerable communities. During this time of uncertainty and change, it is critical that immigrants and others who have questions get accurate, reliable information. Trustworthy organizations that provide free and low-cost immigration legal advice can be found on the Collaborative’s list of member organizations: www.houstonimmigration.org/#members.
The Collaborative plays a critical convening, coordinating, and communication role in the legal services community. Through our work, more immigrants are receiving low-cost, high-quality legal services for immigration issues in Houston. Our work has become even more urgent in 2019, as the policy environment in which we work becomes increasingly hostile to immigrants. We have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for immigration legal services and education & outreach efforts in Houston’s diverse immigrant communities.