New sheriff’s policy limits cooperation with immigration officials


Highlights

Under new policy, the jail won’t hold most suspects for immigration officials without a court order or warrant.

Travis County could lose up to $1.8 million in grants because of the new policy.

In a major policy shift that is already being met with controversy, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez on Friday announced that she is scaling back the amount of help her department provides federal immigration agents in detaining suspects who might be in the country illegally.

Traditionally, the county has honored nearly all requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold a suspect booked into jail when agents have wanted to investigate their status further.

However, effective Feb. 1, sheriff’s officials will honor so-called immigration holds or “detainers” placed by federal authorities only when a suspect is booked into the Travis County Jail on charges of capital murder, aggravated sexual assault and “continuous smuggling of persons.”

Otherwise, federal agents must present a court order or arrest warrant signed by a judge for the jail to continue housing a person whose immigration status is in question, according to Hernandez’s policy, which she released Friday.

“The public must be confident that local law enforcement is focused on local public safety, not on federal immigration enforcement. Our jail cannot be perceived as a holding tank for ICE or that Travis County deputies are ICE officers,” Hernandez said in a video announcement.

Hernandez campaigned on the issue last year, but hadn’t made any public comments about her stance since taking office this month.

Greg Casar, an Austin City Council member who has opposed unlimited deference to federal immigration authorities, praised the sheriff’s announcement.

“Her policies will help all families, immigrants or not, feel more comfortable reporting crime to law enforcement,” Casar said in a statement Friday. “This is especially important in District 4, where over a third of our population is made of up immigrants. Sheriff Hernandez’s policies focus on community trust and public safety over politics.”

This week, the American-Statesman reported that she had notified the county that it would soon no longer be complying with federal agents’ requests in many cases. The county consequently could lose up to $1.8 million in grants because the governor’s office requires compliance in order to receive grants.

Shortly after Hernandez’s announcement Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “The Governor’s Office will cut funding for Travis County adopting sanctuary policies. Stiffer penalties coming.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Mother accused of using kids to steal from Macy’s at Domain, police say
Mother accused of using kids to steal from Macy’s at Domain, police say

Austin police are looking for a woman who they say stole merchandise from a Macy’s department store with the help of another woman and four children no older than 10 years old. Investigators are looking for 27-year-old Martha Monique Lopez, who is charged with robbery by assault, according to an arrest affidavit filed against her this week. On...
Here are the Austin theaters showing Pixar’s ‘Coco’ dubbed into Spanish
Here are the Austin theaters showing Pixar’s ‘Coco’ dubbed into Spanish

“Coco,” the new film from Disney Pixar, concerns young Miguel Rivera, a Mexican boy from a family of shoemakers who loves music, contrary to his family’s dislike of the stuff. Naturally, he ends up in the land of the dead to address the problem at hand. (And yes, there’s more plot than that.) Already the all-time highest...
COMMUNITY NEWS: Austin nonprofit heads up Giving Tuesday campaign

CENTRAL TEXAS Nonprofit heads up Giving Tuesday campaign The Austin nonprofit I Live Here, I Give Here will be the Central Texas official community leader for Giving Tuesday, an annual global event that takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The organization is participating in the campaign by kicking off the year-end giving season through...
Court upholds conviction in SXSW crash that killed 4 in 2014
Court upholds conviction in SXSW crash that killed 4 in 2014

A state appeals court Wednesday upheld the capital murder conviction of Rashad Owens in a series of automobile crashes that killed four during the 2014 South by Southwest music festival in downtown Austin. Owens, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, asked the 3rd Court of Appeals to overturn his conviction, arguing that...
Pay raises, hiring initiatives usher in Texas CPS improvements
Pay raises, hiring initiatives usher in Texas CPS improvements

More caseworkers are staying on the job and workloads have plummeted almost a year after state officials provided $12,000 pay raises to employees in the Texas child welfare system, which had been plagued by child deaths and delays in visiting children in reported abusive homes. After the raises went into effect in January, the percentage of staff leaving...
More Stories