Immigrant Youth in Houston Look Forward to Working with Harris County Judge and District Attorney on Dismantling the Prison to Deportation Pipeline

Sadie Hernandez Press Releases

Wednesday, March 26, 2019

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Sadie Hernandez,

The Honorable Lina Hidalgo and District Attorney Kim Ogg Met With Immigrant Youth to Discuss Criminalization

Houston, TX: Last weekend, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo hosted her sixth Civic Saturday event, focusing on criminal justice reform, and including a substantive discussion about immigration. This was the first time that a Harris County official has hosted a discussion about the intersection between immigration and the justice system. Youth of United We Dream Texas, as well as members of the Houston Leads coalition, were part of the discussion.

Before the discussion, the Honorable Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioners’ Court had taken steps to increase funding for public defenders, which includes funding for in-house immigration attorneys. Hidalgo has also met with members of the immigrant community to discuss how undocumented immigrants in Houston are in danger of being impacted by the criminal and deportation systems.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg sat with immigrant youth and pledged to make adjustments to the process of “pre-trial diversions” to ensure that immigrants are not negatively impacted by these programs, which are intended to keep people out of jail. Currently, if an immigrant takes a pre-trial diversion, it still carries immigration consequences and chance of deportation. Ogg is giving immigrant youth a pathway to create substantial change for all immigrants in Harris County.

Damaris Gonzalez, organizer with United We Dream, said:
“This community meeting was the first step in establishing a policy framework for Harris County that is immigrant led and allows our community to lead their lives without fear. We are happy to have an elected official like Lina Hidalgo who is committed to working with us in a concrete way. Immigrant youth and our families in Houston will continue to work with elected officials to ensure that our voices are heard and that policies work for our community.”

Kate Vickery, executive director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, said:
“It is really exciting to have the County engaging in a meaningful way in the
complex ways that immigration and the justice system intersect, most often resulting in the separation of Houston families. We look forward to continuing to work with the DA’s office and the entire Harris County Commissioner’s Court to implement policies and programs that make a difference in immigrants’ lives and keep families together.”

Divyesh Khatri, a junior in high school and member of Mi Familia Vota’s youth leadership program, said:
“As a high school student, I felt empowered to advocate on behalf of my peers on the topic of youth crime. I was able to widen my exposure to community needs as well as share with County Judge Lina Hidalgo how I thought that we could create solutions in the juvenile system by adopting effective restorative justice instead of high incarceration. These are the types of discussions we need to be having with more members of our community”