Rapid Response & Reporting Infrastructure Builds as Anti-Immigrant Law SB 4 Turns Local Police into Deportation Agents and Congress Misses Deadline to Protect Millions of Immigrant Youth

The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC), with the help of Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, United We Dream, and other partners, announced expansion of its Immigrant Rights hotline. The updated hotline capacity will ensure that cases of profiling are brought to the attention of legal advocates, and will connect callers to local action and advocacy opportunities in order to fight against deportations abuse from enforcement agents. These are in addition to the hotline’s current capacity as a connection point to free and low-cost immigration legal services, and up-to-the-moment information about current immigration law and the policies that affect non-citizen residents of the greater Houston region.

HILSC and its partners announced the expansion as a countermeasure to the profiling effects of Texas’s Senate Bill 4 (SB4), and the continued voluntary collaboration of many city police departments in the region as well as Harris County Sheriff with ICE—a practice that has led to some of the country’s highest deportation rates in Houston. The group expects the hotline to serve as a network of information and protection for people of color facing discrimination, and the region’s 500,000+ undocumented residents, including thousands of immigrant youth currently fighting for permanent protections from deportation.

The hotline (833-HOU-IMMI) takes calls from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Operators are bilingual in Spanish and English, and interpretation is available in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, and other languages.

The hotline is made possible through the efforts of ACLU of Texas, Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.

Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“The Immigrant Rights Hotline received more than 5,000 calls in 2017, and has become an important access point to help our community find resources and legal services, particularly as anti-immigrant state and federal policies change on a near daily basis. We are incredibly grateful to all of the partners who helped develop and staff the Hotline throughout its first year, including Tahirih Justice Center, ACLU of Texas, Vinson & Elkins, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, and more than 100 volunteer attorneys. This cohort of dedicated individuals laid the groundwork for the expanded Hotline, staffed by BakerRipley, Boat People SOS, and United We Dream.”

Janette Diep, Executive Director at Boat People SOS and said:
“The hotline will give our community members the resource and support they need in the midst of changing immigration policies and during a time of many uncertainties.”

Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“An organized community is a powerful community, and the expanded capacities of the Hotline are one more way that we are building networks of information and organizing movement toward justice for the immigrant community in our region. The Hotline will connect our community to opportunities to take action and advocate at the local, state and national levels because despite the attacks on immigrants of all ages, we are here to fight and we are here to stay.”

Jill Campbell, Managing Immigration Attorney, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“The hotline will bring a sense of empowerment to the immigrant community and assure them that Houston will continue to be a welcoming city that is here to help.”

Edgar Saldivar, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Texas, said:
“In these troubling times, immigrant communities face great uncertainty and angst. Genuine questions abound, specifically, over DACA and SB4, and, generally, over the increasing intrusions by law enforcement agents into safe spaces for immigrant communities. For these reasons, it is important for Texans to have access to real-time information. With immigrants, refugees and travelers being targeted with new or more aggressive enforcement tactics, the ACLU and its partners on this hotline are committed to helping people understand their constitutional rights.”

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