The ACLU of Texas is dedicated to reclaiming constitutional and civil rights for all Texans, regardless of immigration status. Immigrants in Texas contribute to our diversity and enrich our economy, but immigrant communities continue to be profiled, harassed, detained, and demonized by extremist politicians and the militarized law enforcement agencies they control.
The fight for immigrants’ rights is especially important in the Lone Star State. We share a 1,254 mile border with Mexico, and 16% of our residents are foreign-born. Texas is thus a critical front in the national battle for immigrants’ rights in our country, and we at the ACLU of Texas are committed to defending those rights in courtrooms, at the state legislature, and in communities large and small throughout the state.
End abuse in immigration enforcement
Abuse of power by federal immigration authorities is rampant in our communities, which are routinely subjected to incidents of excessive force, unconstitutional searches, racial profiling, and unwarranted arrests and detention. Agents deny asylum seekers bond hearings and access to attorneys, and often coerce them into signing “voluntary” departure documents. Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to conduct dragnet raids targeting immigrant communities, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) undermines our Constitution within the limits of the so-called “100-mile zone.”
End civil immigration detention and inhumane conditions of confinement
Every year, thousands of immigrants are detained unnecessarily, and Texas is home to some of the largest immigrant detention facilities in the United States. Because we believe that no one should be held in immigration detention without a constitutionally adequate bond hearing in which the government bears the burden of showing that detention is necessary, we are deeply invested in the fight to end family detention, as well as all other forms of civil immigrant detention. Our advocacy work ranges from fighting inhumane treatment and abuse at detention facilities, to highlighting the unconstitutionality of detaining Central American families seeking asylum.
End local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE
When local law enforcement agencies collaborate with ICE, immigrant communities face greater risk of being targeted unfairly. Moreover, local collaboration with ICE incentivizes racial profiling, erodes trust between police and communities of color, and discourages some immigrants from contacting law enforcement to report crimes in their communities. Our advocacy highlights this heightened risk of abuse under unchecked immigration enforcement.
Support comprehensive immigration reform
The ACLU of Texas actively monitors developments at the federal level in comprehensive immigration reform legislation and works to raise awareness of issues in proposed legislation. We are also engaged at the Texas state legislature, protecting against attacks directed at immigrant communities, and at the local level, working to inform people of their rights and protections when faced with immigration enforcement abuse.
Protect immigrants’ rights to safe community environments and education
The ACLU of Texas works hard to ensure that discriminatory state and local laws stay off the books. We also advocate for proactive legislation that advances immigrants’ rights to education, security, and protects immigrants against public and private discrimination.
Fighting Abuses at the Border
- Along with the ACLU of New Mexico, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman who had been subjected to highly invasive searches—including rectal and vaginal probes—by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Our plaintiff was frisked and strip-searched at the point of entry, then transported to a hospital where doctors and CBP agents, without obtaining a warrant, subjected her to an observed bowel movement, an X-ray, and speculum, rectal, and bi-manual cavity exams. Such egregious abuses of power constitute an abandonment of the fundamental American values of privacy and dignity.
- Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security released a report on use of force by Border Patrol, a CBP agent threw a 5’1” disabled woman named Laura Mireles to the ground and put his full weight on her, simply because she inquired about a search of her purse. She was handcuffed so tightly that the fire department had to be summoned to cut the handcuffs from her wrists. Shortly after the incident, the ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Mireles against the agent in federal court.
Challenging the Detention of Asylum Seekers
In the summer of 2014 during a spike in the number of Central American children and families entering the country without documents, the Obama administration sought ways to “send a message” to would-be immigrants that America would offer no safe haven. One of the most alarming policies implemented by the administration is an unprecedented “no bond” policy that keeps legitimate asylum seekers locked up in family detention centers while they await hearing—not because they pose any security threat, but for the sole purpose of discouraging other asylum seekers. Together with our partners we supported the lawsuit R.I.L.R. v Johnson to demand that women and their children be granted individual bond assessments based on traditional factors such as whether they pose a flight or security risk.
Supporting Refugee Resettlement in Texas
In 2015 Governor Greg Abbott sought to prevent non-profit organizations from participating in refugee resettlement assistance, in spite of the fact that individual states have no jurisdiction over such matters. Along with the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, we filed a legal response on behalf of the International Rescue Committee in order to prevent the State of Texas from illegally barring Syrian refugees from entering the state.
- 83%In 2013, 83 percent of people deported from the United States were not given a hearing before a judge.
- 33%Hispanic motorists in Texas are 33 percent more likely to be searched than white drivers.
- OverspendingThe federal government spends more on immigration enforcement than on all its major law enforcement agencies combined.