AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott is doubling down on his stance on how Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez plans on dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. On Friday, Sheriff Hernandez released a statement outlining the policy changes and describing how she will prohibit Travis County deputies and jailers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status.
Gov. Abbott quickly responded in a Tweet by saying he will cut funding for Travis County for adopting “sanctuary policies.” On Monday, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to Sheriff Hernandez stating her actions are “frivolous” and “reckless.” In the governor’s letter, he rebuked the sheriff for her two reasons to not comply with ICE detainers. Sheriff Hernandez says her office will comply with ICE detainer requests when the suspect is charged with an egregious crime, such as capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, etc. Gov. Abbott says the sheriff has the legal authority to “honor ICE detainers for capital-murder cases as you do for other crimes that you personally deem unworthy of enforcement.”
“It is my policy to focus on local public safety priorities and leave it to federal immigration officials to focus on federal immigration enforcement. Travis County Sheriff’s Office deputies and resources will be focused on serious criminals and true threats to public safety regardless of immigration status,” said Sheriff Hernandez. Abbott says this comment “ignores, of course, that the individuals subject to ICE detainers pose grave threats to public safety.”
Gov. Abbott goes on to say that Sheriff Hernandez should reverse her decision before it goes into effect on Feb. 1 or risk losing $1.8 million in Criminal Justice Division grant money. The state funds at stake include 13 individual grants. Of those, five are dedicated to juvenile probation programs in Travis County. More than $234,000 of grant money is awarded to the County Attorney’s office for a family violence accelerated victim outreach program, more than $214,000 has been awarded to a prostitute prevention program and another nearly $260,000 has been awarded in a grant for the county’s adult probation DWI court.
It remains to be seen how the Travis County Commissioner’s Court would respond if the sheriff does not reverse her policy, and is forced to evaluate the county programs they find a priority and choose to continue funding on their own.
Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Precinct 3, told KXAN he is not surprised by the position the sheriff has found herself in. “I always thought that if it got down to this, that Travis County was going to stand to lose money,” Daugherty said. “I don’t know where we’re going to find $1.8 million and still be concerned about say, the tax rate.”
Daugherty said he will ask Sheriff Hernandez to comply with Gov. Abbott’s demands during the Commissioner’s Court meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
“Give me the rules, give me the guidelines about what the governor is telling us about, what we need to comply with in order to get these grant dollars,” said Daugherty. “I just wish that the sheriff would comply with what the governor is saying that she needs to comply with. There are other things that are going to be much more difficult for us to get our arms around. This ought not be something that we’re having to deal with, as far as I’m concerned.”
Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Austin, represents District 24, which includes a portion of Travis County, says she also supports the governor’s stance.
“Across our district, the border is the number one issue, and my voters want to get rid of sanctuary cities because they view it as a lure that brings people here,” explained Sen. Buckingham. “The sheriff is on a very dangerous path for our city and county, and I hope that she reverses her stance.”
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, backs Hernandez and says, “Ours is not a ‘sanctuary’ city or county, but it is a refuge from anti-immigrant hysteria, with a strong commitment to effective law enforcement.”
Travis County Sheriff’s Office Policy on cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The purpose of this policy is to promote public safety through continued Travis County Sheriffs Office (TCSO) enforcement of all Texas criminal laws, to protect and serve all residents of Travis County regardless of their immigration status, and to ensure the continued participation of victims and witnesses regardless of their immigration status.
It is the policy of the TCSO to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in accordance with the following procedures:
1. For purposes of this section, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detainer request” (also known as “ICE holds”) shall be defined as any request to local law enforcement to: (a) voluntarily notify ICE in advance of releasing the subject of a detainer request, and/or (b) to continue the detention of an inmate beyond expiration of municipal, state, or federal charges, or a finding of no probable cause, or a posting of bail or parole, or a completion of a sentence, or lifting of another jurisdiction or agency’s detainer, or a court ordered release. ICE detainer requests include, and are not limited to, DHS forms 1-247, I-247D, I-247N, and I-247X. Judicial warrants or any court order for continued detention shall not be considered ICE detainer requests for purposes of this section.
2. TCSO shall comply with ICE detainer requests under the following circumstances: (a) when the detainer request is accompanied by a judicial warrant or court order for continued detention or notification, to the extent required by the judicial warrant or court order; or (b) when the individual who is the subject of the ICE detainer request is charged with or has been convicted of the following felonies under Texas law: (1) Capital Murder, Tex. Penal Code§ 19.03; (2) Murder- First Degree, Tex. Penal Code§ 19.02; (3) Aggravated Sexual Assault, Tex. Penal Code § 22.021, and (4) Continuous Smuggling of Persons, Tex. Penal Code§ 20.06. A conviction consists of a final entry of adjudication of guilt by a court pursuant to statute, and after exhaustion of the appellate process. If a court later (a) vacates the judicial warrant or court order, or (b) the individual’s conviction and/or sentence is overturned, TCSO will decline the ICE detainer request relating to that individual.
3.TCSO officials shall not conduct or initiate any immigration status investigation into individuals in TCSO custody or provide information on an inmate’s release date or address to ICE.
4.TCSO personnel shall not expend county resources or time communicating with ICE regarding an inmate’s release date, incarceration status, or court dates, unless ICE presents a judicial warrant or court order. TCSO personnel shall not use any department resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. TCSO personnel shall not request backup or interpretation assistance from ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, but in the event of emergency should contact supervisors within TCSO.
5.Absent a judicial warrant or court order, TCSO shall not allow ICE to conduct civil immigration status investigations at the jail or at TCSO offices. Nothing in this policy prevents the TCSO from deciding to cooperate with ICE, as the Sheriff determines on a case-by-case basis, on matters of national security.
6.No TCSO personnel in the jail, on patrol, or elsewhere may inquire about a person’s immigration status. A TCSO employee’s suspicion about any person’s immigration status shall not be used as a basis to initiate contact, question, detain, or arrest that person. TSCO personnel shall not participate in sweeps intended solely to locate and detain undocumented immigrants, whether or not initiated or organized by ICE.
7. Any individual who alleges a violation of the policy set forth herein may file a written complaint for investigation with the Travis County Sheriffs Internal Affairs Division.
8. TCSO is committed to protecting immigrant victims of crime in Travis County through timely administration of requests for T-Visa and U-Visa certifications.
9. TCSO reserves the right to exercise discretion in any individual case to ensure that justice is served.