By Brooke Lewis
Several protesters seeking immigrants rights were arrested this morning after blocking the entrance to the Travis County Jail.
The protesters, 25 to 30 in all, have been singing and holding signs since about 8 a.m. at the jail as part of an effort to halt deportations, organizers said.
The group wants the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to reconsider a program called Secure Communities, or S-Comm, which helps the federal government identify potential deportation targets by comparing fingerprints of people who have been booked on various charges against immigration databases.
According to the group, 19 people a week have been deported from the jail since the program was begun in Travis County in 2009. Most were charged with small crimes, the group said.
The protesters include several groups, including the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and university students.
“I have family members from grandparents to cousins that are here with documents and not, so that’s something that hits close to home,’ said Jose Rodriguez, 31, a volunteer with Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition. “I think it’s a right for anyone to be able to live a life in peace and be able to work and provide for their family.”
Witnesses said up to 30 law enforcement officials came out of the jail about 8:45 a.m. and arrested the people who had been blocking the jail entrance.
The protesters said they plan to continue protesting throughout the day.
According to organizers, immigrant rights advocates met with the office of Sheriff Greg Hamilton last week and requested a halt of deportations and a review the effectiveness of the program. That request was rejected, organizers said.
A call to sheriff’s officials has not been returned.
In August of 2012, more than 50 people protested the program outside of Hamilton’s office.