Immigration advocates plan rally at City Hall - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Immigration advocates plan rally at City Hall

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Immigration advocates in Austin are planning a rally at City Hall Thursday. They hope an item on the city's agenda will put some political pressure on Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.

Advocates want to see Travis County opt out of Secure Communities. It's the federal program also referred to as S-comm where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement checks fingerprints of people who have been arrested and may have a questionable immigration status.

The resolution before council, if passed, opposed the use of county resources to comply with S-comm. It also urges Sheriff Hamilton to stop enforcing ICE detainers. It also asks the city manager to look at how the city could reduce its use of the Travis County booking facility.

"If we did our own booking we would have the choice to implement program and it's clearly a voluntary program," said Council Member Laura Morrision, who is sponsoring the resolution.

"We hope it's a first step to getting rid of S-comm in Travis County," said Alejandro Caceres, the executive director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition.

The group opposes S-comm. Caceres says ICE deports an average of 19 people out of Travis County each week.

"We really want Travis County to be the first place in Texas to opt out," said Caceres.

Caceres says this is just a step in the group's continued efforts calling for change.

TSCO maintains it is not directly responsible for enforcing S-comm. People who are arrested and booked into the Travis County jail, regardless of the offense, are finger printed. Those fingerprints then go into the DPS database which the feds can access.

Hamilton declined our request for an interview. Back in April, he said he is committed to honoring detainers.

"I've got a job to do and that's maintain safety in this community and that's why I will continue to honor detainers," said Hamilton.

Community advocate Paul Saldana says many people are pushing this issue.

"I think there's a line of people at the door ready to run against Sheriff Hamilton. This is a quality of life issue and we're disappointed. He's a democrat and the sheriff knows Latinos make up 40 percent of the county," said Saldana.

The debate over the controversial program is far from over. Advocates say they'll continue to push for the county to be the first in the state to pass a trust act ending cooperation with ICE.

Back in April, ICE told FOX 7 that since S-comm started five years ago 4,600 people have been deported out of Travis County. Of that number 1,400 people committed serious crimes.

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