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Few in Austin asked for immigration status

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

On June 14, Council passed two “Freedom City” ordinances that are intended to reduce racial disparities in discretionary arrests and ensure that police officers inform people of their right not to answer when they ask about immigration status. Among other things, this resolution established twice-yearly reporting requirements as to the number of requests that the Austin Police Department makes in regard to someone’s immigration status. According to the department’s current policy, all incidences of this type of inquiry must document “not only did you ask that question but why you asked that question,” explained APD Assistant Chief Troy Gay at the August 6 meeting of the Public Safety Commission. Following the resolution passed by Council, when a request for immigration status is presented, “We will be instructing the officers that you will let that person know that they are not compelled to respond,” said Gay. There will be no action taken by officers with that information provided. Since Sept. 1, 2017, when the new policy went into effect, there have been three legitimate inquiries into someone’s status. “All of those have been reviewed. They were appropriate,” said Gay. He explained that the requests came about because the cases involved human trafficking, a traffic incident with no ID on the individual and questionable documents in the vehicle, and a credit card scheme investigation where a person had a fake Canadian ID.

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