SA Stands wins $1M Immigrant Legal Defense Fund



For media inquiries contact: 

Manuela Gonzalez,, 415-255-9499

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

SA Stands Applauds Bexar County Commissioners for the Creation of a $1 Million Immigrant Legal Defense Fund to Protect Community Members and Their Families 

SAN ANTONIO, TX — SA Stands celebrates the historic creation of a $1 million Immigrant Legal Defense Fund (ILDF) to better protect the due process rights of community members and their families at risk of deportation in Bexar County. Today, SA Stands, and nearly 30 community members, testified at Commissioners Court, urging the court to create this important fund, which they did.

Acknowledging the harmful and devastating consequences deportations can have on entire communities, SA Stands received the support from County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez, who introduced the resolution to create the fund. We applaud Commissioner Rodriguez and the Commissioner’s Court for creating this critical legal defense fund and helping to keep families together.

The SA Stands ILDF campaign has also received public support from over 200 community members who have signed the SA Stands online petition. SA Stands has held phone banks, webinars, and authored an op-ed about the importance of a legal defense fund.  We are very thankful to the community for their support in making this fund possible.   

In Bexar County, nearly 66% of individuals are forced to defend their immigration case and navigate a complex court system without legal representation. A Bexar County ILDF will help increase representation for community members, and ensure they have a real opportunity to fully present their case.  

“It is unreasonable and unjust to expect individuals without the legal expertise or resources to navigate complex immigration law and competently represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Our hope is to help balance the scales of justice by providing access to representation for people who cannot afford it so that those with standing to stay in the United States have a true opportunity to receive the rights available to them under U.S. law”.– Bexar County Commissioner, Justin Rodriguez

“We have seen an unprecedented level of immigration enforcement in the last few years, placing many at risk of deportation and separation from their families. Despite the high stakes involved in these cases, the vast majority of immigrants are unable to secure critical legal representation and forced to navigate a complex legal system alone. Bexar County must take action to provide our community members true access to our justice system. Legal representation is critical and ensures that our immigration system works in a just and fair manner to keep families and communities whole.” –Edna Yang, Co-Executive Director, American Gateways

“Five years ago, the City of San Antonio took an important step forward by allocating a small amount of funding for immigration legal defense. With just that small amount of funding, over a hundred San Antonio residents have received representation, and many of their families have been kept together. The results have been demonstrated, and it is time for Bexar County to make a bold move and take this program to the next level. In a time of divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric, Bexar County should take the opportunity to demonstrate that we are a compassionate and welcoming community.”  –Kathrine Russell, Director of Removal Defense, RAICES

“With the continued attacks on immigrants and residents alike by our state government, it’s more important now than ever that San Antonio takes serious action to protect our immigrant community and fund immigrant legal defense. By granting this crucial access to legal representation and guidance to community members, the Bexar County Commissioners Court can help keep families together and protect those most vulnerable to deportation.” –Scott Kanski, Advocacy & Field Organizer, Texas Rising 

“Every day, individuals in our Texas communities are deported, not because they don’t have strong claims for relief, but because these individuals don’t have legal representation. One of the many failings of our immigration system is that it does not guarantee the right to an attorney in deportation proceedings. The Bexar County Commissioners should do all that is within their power to help address the critical need for representation and protect community members.” –Priscilla Olivarez, Policy Attorney and Strategist, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

“Being in immigration detention was one of the most frustrating and most discriminating times in my life. Before I had a lawyer to help me, I was never told anything in my case. Once I had a lawyer, I saw a difference. Without a lawyer, the judge didn’t listen to me, but I saw he listened to my lawyer. While I was detained, I saw a lot of injustice that happened because people did not have the right to representation or even access to a person who could help them understand the immigration laws. This injustice is why I think Bexar County needs a legal defense fund that will provide immigration lawyers to help people have a fair trial in immigration court.” —Mario  Hernández, RAICES Client


SA Stands is a strong non-partisan collaborative in the city of San Antonio and Bexar County that works through organized campaigns, advocacy efforts, community education, and direct action, to mobilize against any laws and efforts that criminalize, incarcerate, deport and divide our communities. For more information visit

Manny Pelaez betrays community’s efforts for a comprehensive cite and release policy


December 2, 2021 

CONTACTS: Carolina Canizales, 210-760-7368, and Ananda Tomas, 575-937-4813,

Manny Pelaez betrays community’s efforts for a comprehensive cite and release policy 

SAN ANTONIO, TX — Yesterday the SA Stands coalition learned that Councilman Manny Pelaez filed a Council Consideration Request (CCR) for an incomplete cite and release program, one that would ONLY cover some marijuana misdemeanor cases. He did this after meeting with our SA Stands leaders and hearing about our comprehensive cite and release proposed ordinance.

For the past four years, the SA Stands coalition has led a campaign that is holistic and puts the best version of a cite and release ordinance forward. Our proposed cite and release ordinance is not just about giving an opportunity to those individuals that are caught with marijuana possession, ours includes all citation-eligible offenses under the Texas Penal Code

SA Stand’s goal has always been to significantly reduce non-mandatory and costly arrests in communities who are largely impacted by overpolicing. Our proposed ordinance also includes language to ensure data transparency and oversight of the SA Police Department. 

“Councilman Pelaez has made a calculated move to undercut years of work by the community- including his own constituents- on cite and release. We are also disappointed in Councilman Courage for supporting Pelaez’s watered down version of cite and release. He gave his own commitment to support our CCR just this fall,” stated Ananda Tomas, a member of the SA Stands coalition. 

The SA Stands coalition has received more than 500 petition supporters for our proposed version of cite and release, and engaged hundreds more community members via webinars and community meetings, and produced numerous resources to educate the community about the positive outcomes cite and release can bring to our city. We also surveyed council leaders during elections and got their commitment to support our cite and release ordinance, including Councilman Pelaez’s commitment of support.  

SA Stands is a strong non-partisan collaborative in the city of San Antonio and Bexar County that believes no human being is disposable and works towards the abolishment of systems that are inherently racist and dehumanizing. Through organized campaigns, advocacy efforts, community education, and direct action, SA Stands will mobilize against any laws and efforts that criminalize, incarcerate, deport and divide our communities. For more information visit


Activist drop off hundreds of petitions to urge Pelaez and Rocha-Garcia to support a Cite and Release Ordinance

SAN ANTONIO, TX — On Friday, October 22nd, members of SA Stands, a local coalition who has worked the past three years to reduce arrests via a cite and release ordinance, will deliver more than 500 petition signatures from San Antonio residents that support reducing arrests in their communities to the offices of Councilman Pelaez and Councilwoman Rocha-Garcia 

During the May city council elections, SA Stands sent candidate questionnaires asking whether council candidates would support and introduce a cite and release ordinance within their first 100 days in office— Pelaez answered ‘yes’ but has done nothing, while Rocha-Garcia has refused to meet with the group altogether. 

“A cite and release ordinance will greatly reduce discriminatory policing against Black and other communities of color. It will save money in police and jail upkeep, which can be spent on other needs such as housing and public health,” stated Carolina Canizales, an SA Stands leader. Since 2019, SAPD has implemented an administrative cite and release policy, but SA Stands is urging city council to permanently codify this policy into an ordinance to ensure an increase in the number of citations issued by police officers. The last two years of data continue to show racial disparities in who officers cite for offenses like marijuana possession, theft and driving with an invalid license. 

Activists will drop off petitions to these respective council offices, have speakers highlight the lack of leadership on this issue, and ask that councilmembers publicly support an ordinance or not be a barrier. 

WHEN: Friday, October 22, 2021 12-1:30 PM CT 

WHERE:  12pm- Pelaez District 8 Office (13330 Kyle Seale Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78249)

     1:05pm Rocha-Garcia District 4 Office (5102 Old Pearsall Rd, San Antonio, TX 78242 

NOTES FOR MEDIA: Speakers available for comment before and after the event

SPEAKERS INCLUDE: (All members of SA Stands coalition) 

Ananda Tomas, ACT 4 SA

Rodney Brown, Texas Organizing Project

Carolina Canizales, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Deborah Ponce, RAICES

SA Stands is a strong non-partisan collaborative in the city of San Antonio and Bexar County that believes no human being is disposable and works towards the abolishment of systems that are inherently racist and dehumanizing. Through organized campaigns, advocacy efforts, community education, and direct action, SA Stands will mobilize against any laws and efforts that criminalize, incarcerate, deport and divide our communities. For more information visit

#DefundThemAll Action

On Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 SA Stands joined the Defund SAPD coalition to say abolish and defund every level of immigration and law enforcement, from the police to ICE to Border Patrol, as all of it hurts and criminalizes our communities. Since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security has been created and funded at an outrageous level. It does not provide us security, in the same way that the police do not provide us public safety. While SAPD and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office murder Black San Antonians, Border Patrol is murdering immigrants at the border and ICE is tearing apart families and deporting asylum seekers to their death. While some of our community members are served a death sentence by being jailed during COVID-19, so are immigrant members of our community in detention. Our local law enforcement deliberately collaborates with ICE, far beyond what is required by state law. We can’t allow this to continue, so we marched on our streets!

This event was part of Day 4 of #10DaysToDefund. Visit for information. See more event photos on Facebook.

COVID-19 Outbreak: Urgent Responses and Solutions Required by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office

May 21, 2020

Sheriff Javier Salazar: 

We, the undersigned organizations and residents of Bexar County, are deeply concerned regarding the rise in cases of COVID-19 in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center. Now is the time for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) to take the critical next steps necessary to address this current health crisis, and ensure that every possible solution is being actively pursued. Failing to be proactive in these next steps will result in the loss of more lives, both in the jail and out in the community. SA Stands and other criminal justice partners have been in contact with your office to express our concern about the risks of a COVID-19 outbreak. This included a letter sent on March 19, 2020, calling for the release of pretrial detention populations, and a public statement published on March 20, 2020, announcing a public call for a moratorium on arrests and new jail bookings. 

This outbreak began at the jail in late March and has since continued to rise, with San Antonio Metro Health currently reporting 396 incarcerated individuals infected, along with 58 deputies. As these numbers increase, experts fear that this may only be the beginning of a much bigger crisis. With COVID-19 spreading inside the jail, we will most certainly see more deaths and an increased likelihood of the virus jumping from the jail and out into the community. Both outcomes will result in our local hospitals being overwhelmed, and our community being put at an increased danger.

Reporting from county and local sources further highlight just how difficult it is for jails to respond effectively to a virus such as COVID-19. According to data from Metro Health, approximately 74% of those incarcerated who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been asymptomatic. This troubling figure has also been found with staff members, noting that a significant portion of deputies who have tested positive for COVID-19 have also shown zero symptoms of having the virus. In a San Antonio Express News article on May 14, you were quoted as saying, “every couple of days, just when we think we have it figured out, something happens.” Both of these examples highlight just how difficult it is for any jail to deal with this health crisis effectively, and the importance for all stakeholders to come together to reach solutions.

Unfortunately, the Bexar County Adult Detention Center has already experienced the worst of this virus with the death of Clifford Childs, and the tragic loss of a deputy due to complications from COVID-19. As these deaths are extremely saddening and upsetting, they both represent a microcosm of the devastating consequences of this virus, and the need to continue to explore further solutions in working to mitigate these types of outcomes. According to a report done by the American Civil Liberties Union, if the same health measures being taken by the general public are ignored in jails, then the currently projected deaths attributed to COVID-19 will be substantially undercounted. In Bexar County alone, this report shows that the projected deaths inside the jail could amount to a 7% increase in the county’s total number of deaths.

It is under these concerning circumstances that the BCSO must take immediate action on the recommendations outlined below.  

Recommendations to Address the COVID-19 Outbreak

Contrary to the statements and actions of our state leadership, health experts have predicted we will continue to face this pandemic for months to come. In order to help save lives, we demand that the following measures be taken immediately so that no more lives are lost

  • Release public data on the following issues. We ask that BCSO be transparent and provide the following information to the public: number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 inside the jail, number of people placed in confinement, number of tests available and being provided on a daily basis, and number of hospital transfers. In addition, please provide accurate arrest and booking data since our shelter in place order was issued on March 23, 2020, including the date of the arrest, charge, bond, ethnicity/race, and arresting agency in every incident.
  • Issue a moratorium on all arrests and new bookings. We applaud efforts made by the BCSO to encourage local law enforcement officials to issue citations in lieu of arrests. However, this is not enough. People are still being arrested for low-level offenses, which causes a revolving door of people coming in and out of jail, creating a situation that could further harm populations inside the jail and the community. Sheriff’s in El Paso, Denton, Collin and Dallas Counties have all called on their respective local law enforcement agencies to halt, or drastically decrease the number of arrests. BCSO must demand the same, and work to encourage officers to use decarceral alternatives to arrests that include warnings, pre-arrest diversion opportunities, citations and/or summons, as well as community-based resources and programs. 
  • Immediately provide a safe environment for those that remain incarcerated. We thank the BCSO’s efforts to follow CDC health guidelines and recognize the progress and efforts in maintaining a clean jail, as well as providing more masks and soap bars for all individuals. We ask that you continue to increase access to free disinfectants such as hand sanitizer and cleaning products for shared toilets. We ask that your office actively work to provide free and unlimited phone calls for defendants to connect with their loved ones, and offer access to free mental health services as a result of the heightened stress and anxiety caused by lockdown measures put in place in response to COVID-19. These services could include reliable access to mental healthcare professionals, with the use of virtual visitations if one-on-one consultations are not possible, as well as frequent mental health check-ins by appropriate jail staff. 
  • Release all people from jail. As Sheriff, you play a vital role in either directly or indirectly securing the release of individuals inside the jail. We urge you to begin releasing individuals through accelerated good time and work time credits. In areas where you may not have the authority to release individuals, we suggest working with other local officials in prioritizing recommendations for release by providing access to critical information such as health, risk, or time left on sentences. Acting to continuously review individuals who are serving sentences inside the jail and making recommendations for other options to confinement is all too critical in light of the current outbreak inside the jail. Considering that a large portion of the population inside jails are pretrial arrestees, we urge you to work with the Bexar County Criminal Courts to ensure the release of as many pretrial arrestees as possible.
  • Compassionate release for those with violent offenses. Although Governor Greg Abbott’s Order issued on March 29, 2020, limits your authority in releasing individuals charged with or convicted of violent offenses. We urge you to send a list of the people who would otherwise be eligible for release to county judges, advocating for alternative solutions. A structured release policy based on valid criminogenic research and data—not on unfounded fears and stereotypes—will minimize the loss of life while ensuring that our communities are kept safe.
  • Stop holding people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they would otherwise be released. As of April 7th, there were at least 152 individuals with an ICE hold inside the county jail. These prolonged holds after an individual has been cleared to return to our community not only violate individuals’ constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment and subject the county to liability, but they present an increasing public health risk. In this unprecedented time, we need to exercise caution and allocate our limited resources efficiently to combat the spread of the virus and ensure our residents have access to treatment and desperately needed services. SB 4 does not require cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities unless it is “reasonable or necessary.” A recent report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards shows that Texas counties spent almost $6.3 million detaining individuals on ICE detainers in February 2020. Instead of needlessly continuing to spend local resources for federal immigration enforcement activities, we need to prioritize our resources for local needs. Therefore, enforcement of immigration detainers must be suspended immediately.
  • Provide a comprehensive re-entry plan for every individual being released. Releasing individuals to save their lives is only the first step. The next crucial step is ensuring that individuals have access to adequate resources during this public health emergency. We urge you to work with the Bexar County Commissioners Court to secure the resources to provide all the required funding to ensure access to services for those being released. Bexar County taxpayers pay $59 per person, per day to house someone in jail. These resources could be rerouted to expand housing services for those who need a place to live, and provide other basic needs, such as food security and adequate medical care. 

Thank you for your urgent attention to these issues. We will continue to be in contact as you work to address this current outbreak, and welcome opportunities to collaborate on possible solutions and alternatives.  

With urgency,

All of Us or None Texas

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

MOVE Texas Action Fund

SA Stands 

Andrea Figueroa,ED, Martinez Street Women’s Center

Brittany Sharp, Youth Educator

Cristian Esparza, Texas Organizing Project

Deborah Young – Retired Educator

Debra Hernandez, RAICES Texas, member of SA Stands coalition

Fabiola Ochoa Torralba, Community Advocate

Jake Tucker – Party for Socialism and Liberation

Jeril Bills, First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio Social Justice Committee

Joanna Klekowicz, Education Leader

Jovanni Reyes, ABOUT FACE: Veterans Against the War, SATX Chapter

Judith Cashin Lerma, RNC MSN, CCM, National Nurses United 

Justin Martinez, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Kyle Kennedy – Party for Socialism and Liberation

Laura Ríos-Ramirez, De Corazón Consulting, KMSW 101.5 FM Martinez Street Women’s Center

Lexy Garcia, Texas Freedom Network

Maya Pilgrim, Evaluation Consultant

Mayra Solis – Educator

Natalie Clifford, Teacher

Rachell Tucker – Party for Socialism and Liberation

Rosa Torres, Dance Educator, Choreographer

Shelley Ettinger, Workers World Party 

Teresa Gutierrez, F.I.R.E. (Fight for Im/Migrants & Refugees Everywhere)

Ximena Urrutia-Rojas, DrPH

SA Stands to start the “San Antonio Undocumented Workers Fund” to Provide Relief to Those Excluded from the CARES Act

SAN ANTONIO— Today, SA Stands, along with other local organizations, launched the “San Antonio Undocumented Workers Fund”. When Congress passed the CARES Act last month to aid people struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it excluded noncitizen workers and even their U.S. citizen family members. This new fund will assist these families as they try to stay safe and provide for their basic needs.  We are all San Antonians, and we must ensure that all of us have the relief to get through this crisis together as a community.

Immigrants are among the essential workers putting themselves at risk to provide us healthcare, food, transportation, and safety during the pandemic. These workers contribute to our communities in many ways, including financially. According to the New American Economy, undocumented workers contributed $47 million to state and local taxes in 2017. It is a disgrace to leave them out of the stimulus package deal.

SA Stands is committed to raising $25,000 and assisting at least 50 families in the city of San Antonio. To do so, we will need the help of those in our community fortunate enough to still earn their paycheck safely. We encourage those who can to join many of our community organizers in contributing all or part of their $1,200 CARES Act check to share it with those who will not receive one.

To donate or apply for funds visit 

SA Stands will continue to work to provide assistance to immigrant families and advocate for our local governments to recognize the equality of all community members by providing aid to those who will not receive a stimulus check.

SA Groups Demand Moratorium for All Minor Offenses Arrests Amidst COVD19 Crisis and Beyond

Coalition of 26 Local Advocacy Groups Urge City of San Antonio and San Antonio Police Department to halt arrests for all low level offenses

SAN ANTONIO — Last Friday, County Judge Nelson Wolff suspended arrests for all minor offenses for 30 days. This decision is a clear recognition that the criminal legal system does not deem these arrests mandatory. We should decriminalize all low-level offenses such as marijuana possession, theft, and driving with an invalid license, as well as all ticketable offenses, also known as Class C misdemeanors.  

Today we demand the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Department halt arrests for all low level offenses not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but once and for all. The City and SAPD must work with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office to enact this permanent policy. 

We also demand the immediate release of everyone who does not pose a danger to others, including all who are serving a misdemeanor sentence or in pre-trial detention and anyone who is medically vulnerable. 

Since 2018, the SA Stands coalition has advocated for the decriminalization of low-level offenses, and pushed for the implementation of a cite and release program. Unfortunately, since the start of this program we have seen that officers continue to use their discretion to arrest more than they cite. Arrests have harsh consequences for all our San Antonio residents, as they impact future work, education, and service opportunities. 

We strongly believe that all of the resources that are put into misdemeanor arrests should be invested in the treatment and support services needed by the individuals who come in contact with law enforcement. This investment would create lasting benefits for our community, instead of continuing the harmful cycle of arrests and long-term societal exclusion.