You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Immigrants, former inmates team up against prisons, deportations


Highlights

Protest organizers say former jail and prison inmates face similar challenges as undocumented immigrants.

Demonstrators shouted ‘no justice, no peace’ and carried colorful signs about prison reform and deportations.

A coalition of more than 100 immigrants, activists and former inmates marched through downtown Austin on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to give them a break as they consider legislation aimed at punishing so-called sanctuary cities and rolling back “fair chance” hiring policies.

The crowd marched from the federal courthouse on Fourth Street to the Texas Capitol shouting “no justice, no peace” and carrying colorful signs demanding an end to prison profiteering and deportations.

The group made a pit stop along the way at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, where many attendees had been incarcerated and others feared they could end up if the Texas Legislature forces local law enforcement agencies to report undocumented immigrants.

Insis Bernardez, who fled violence in Honduras and came to the United States in 2015, said the proposed legislation could be deadly to people like her.

After she arrived in the states, Bernardez spent 14 months in detention, where she said conditions were so difficult that she and others staged a hunger strike.

“We didn’t have good hygiene, we could take showers and clean ourselves once a week,” she said.

Bernardez, 33, said she still worries that she could be killed if she ever goes back to Honduras.

Vanessa Garcia, a transgender activist who came to the United States 15 years ago, also escaped potential violence. She said she entered the United States under a legal visa, but stayed in the country when her time ran out.

She said she has felt welcome before, but now she doesn’t feel comfortable with the policies of the Trump administration or those proposed by the state Legislature.

“In my country, the transgender community is very persecuted,” she said, adding that she hoped to give a voice to people like her who could be directly affected by the orders.

The experiences of former jail and prison inmates are not always the same as those of immigrants who entered the United States illegally, but Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, said there are many parallels to the challenges they face.

“There is a (cross section) between the same communities who are being exploited and oppressed for profit and for gain from these private prison corporations, and from those who would wish to push us down through these bills in the legislature,” Casini said.

Lewis Conway Jr., a towering man who spent eight years in prison and another 12 on probation shouted into a megaphone as the crowd rumbled through downtown behind a booming drum line.

“Make Some noise for no more prisons, no more deportations, no more ICE, no more police brutality, no more drug wars in our community,” he said.

Conway now serves as a criminal justice program associate for Grassroots Leadership, a group that seeks an end to mass incarceration, deportation and privately run prisons. He called the prison system a social control mechanism.

“Many of the members of our community are locked in that jail, and they keep making excuses for keeping them locked up. But we’re not going to accept any more excuses,” Conway said. “The same excuses they made for those jails they made for slavery. The same excuses they made for why black lives don’t matter (are) why that jail exists.”

Melvin Halsey, a Navy veteran with the Texas Advocates for Justice said he wants to promote unity between the LBGT community, immigrants and the formerly incarcerated, and band together against the challenges the groups face.

Halsey, who said he suffers from mental health issues and has been incarcerated four times for offenses related to drugs and alcohol, said he is looking for a chance to be a good father and grandfather.

“There are so many of us who are formerly incarcerated who need a job, who need housing, who need to take care of our children and grandchildren,” Halsey said. “To kill that would just be devastating to a lot of us.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Policía: Reportes de crímenes en Austin bajan entre hispanos, otros
Policía: Reportes de crímenes en Austin bajan entre hispanos, otros

El número de crímenes reportados por los habitantes de Austin – incluyendo los hispanos – ha bajado en lo que va del año, algo que los oficiales del Departamento de Policía dicen es una “fluctuación normal” y no necesariamente una reacción a las recientes operaciones migratorias en la...
Flood advisory issued for Austin after storms drop up to inch of rain in 2 hours; hundreds in Central Texas report outages
Flood advisory issued for Austin after storms drop up to inch of rain in 2 hours; hundreds in Central Texas report outages

3:25 a.m. update: An areal flood advisory has been issued for central Travis County until 5:15 a.m. Wednesday,  the National Weather Service said. At 3:20 a.m., Doppler radar showed heavy rain from thunderstorms capable of producing minor flooding in the city of Austin, where up to an inch of rain has already fallen, the weather service said....
New development deals bring two regional headquarters to Pflugerville
New development deals bring two regional headquarters to Pflugerville

Two new regional headquarters are coming to Pflugerville after the Pflugerville City Council approved two economic development deals at Tuesday night’s meeting. An agreement with Accent Food Services Inc. to build the company’s new regional headquarters at 2919 A.W. Grimes Blvd. was approved, said Amy Madison, executive director of the...
Study: 10,000 steps might not be enough for healthy life
Study: 10,000 steps might not be enough for healthy life

The standard for a healthy amount of exercise has widely been accepted as 10,000 steps a day. However, new research shows this might not be enough.  Researchers in Scotland looked at postal workers and tracked how many steps a day they took — their average was 15,000, according to The New York Times.  Those who achieved...
UPDATE: Eight people hospitalized after new spike in K2 calls
UPDATE: Eight people hospitalized after new spike in K2 calls

8:45 p.m. update: Eight people were taken to the hospital over a roughly one-hour period this evening after Austin medics responded to multiple 911 calls regarding people having negative reactions to the synthetic drug K2, also known as Spice, in areas throughout Austin, EMS officials said. In total, medics tended to 12 people this evening who...
More Stories