UPDATE: Travis Co. sheriff’s office challenges ICE’s details about ‘gang member’ released from jail


TRAVIS COUNTY

Tuesday 9:45 p.m. update: The Travis County sheriff’s office is challenging some of the details the U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided Tuesday afternoon concerning the release from the county jail of an inmate federal immigration officials described as a “documented” gang member. 

ICE officials said Tuesday Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero, 33, was released from Travis County Jail on June 16 “without ICE being notified.” ICE had requested a retainer on Mendoza-Caballero, but county officials declined it. 

In a statement Tuesday evening, the sheriff’s office took issue with the statement and said it had, in fact, notified several ICE officials of Mendoza-Caballero’s release. 

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“Recipients of the notification include: Michael Shaffer, Veronica Ulloa, Kathleen Abrego and Eric R. Abbott. The Austin branch of ICE was also notified via its official email address,” a news release from the sheriff’s office said. 

The sheriff’s office added Mendoza-Caballero was released on a personal recognizance bond six hours after it declined immigration officials’ request for a detainer, “giving ICE a full six hours to provide a court order or warrant, indicating probable cause for his transfer to their custody.” The release noted court-ordered removal documents are currently provided “on a routing basis and honored.”

“It is unfortunate that once again, ICE has presented inaccurate information in what appears to be an effort to publicly shame agencies with which it disagrees,” the sheriff’s office said. “Open communication between the Travis County Jail and ICE is a daily, if not hourly occurrence. A simple phone call or email would have clarified their error privately and professionally.”

STATESMAN IN-DEPTH: In ‘sanctuary’ fight, a new question of justice emerges

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez became a political lightning rod earlier this year when she announced that she would not cooperate with all federal immigration detainers filed at the jail.  Hernandez’s policy on detainers said she would only comply with the requests under certain circumstances, limiting to honor those related to a handful of serious charges.

The policy created significant tensions between the sheriff’s office and ICE. In January, federal officials told two magistrate judges they would target Austin in a major immigration operation that was in part retribution for Hernandez’s policy on detainers. The operation resulted in the arrest of 51 people

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: U.S. judge: ICE said Austin raid was because of ‘sanctuary’ policy

Hernandez’s policy was rendered illegal under SB4, Texas so-called “sanctuary cities ban,” slated to go into effect on Sept. 1. The law also prevents police chiefs and sheriffs from preventing their rank and file from asking arrestees about their immigration status, and allows those officials who do to be charged with a crime and heavily fined.

LEARN MORE: 7 things you need to know about SB 4, the ‘anti-sanctuary’ law

Earlier: Federal immigration officials say they have arrested a documented “Sureños 13” gang member, who had been previously deported four times, a few weeks after he was released from the Travis County Jail.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents filed a detainer request with the Travis County Jail for 33-year-old Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero on June 16, the agency said in a news release on Tuesday.

The same day, authorities at the jail released Mendoza-Caballero from custody without alerting ICE, federal officials said.

ICE agents took Mendoza-Caballero back into custody on Friday in Austin for illegally reentering the United States. The news release did not provide details on Mendoza-Caballero’s arrest.

Mendoza-Caballero was convicted of stealing a firearm in Hopkins County in 2008, and of illegally entering the United States in Arizona, ICE said, adding that he had been removed four times before, with the latest removal in 2013.

According to Travis County Jail records, Mendoza-Caballero was booked into the facility in June on a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury and a city ordinance violation. Authorities at the jail also confirmed that an ICE detainer was filed on him when he was arrested.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez became a political lightning rod earlier this year when she announced that she would not cooperate with all federal immigration detainers filed at the jail.

Hernandez’s policy on detainers said she would only comply with the requests under certain circumstances, limiting to honor those related to a handful of serious charges. The policy was rendered illegal under SB4, Texas so-called “sanctuary cities ban,” slated to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The new law also prevents police chiefs and sheriffs from preventing their rank and file from asking arrestees about their immigration status, and allows those officials who do to be charged with a crime and heavily fined.

— Mark D. Wilson, American-Statesman

NORTHWEST AUSTIN

Police ID man killed in Loop 360 crash

Police have identified a man who died Thursday in a crash in Northwest Austin as Robert David Register, 29.

Police said a 2007 Kenworth dump truck was headed south on North Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) when it slammed into Register’s 2016 Ford Mustang near Courtyard Drive around 9 p.m. on July 13.

Both vehicles continued south and crashed into a parked vehicle before coming to a stop.

Register was taken to the Dell Seton Medical Center for treatment, but he died from his injuries the next day, police said.

Investigators are still looking into the crash and ask anyone with information to call the department’s Vehicular Homicide Unit at 512-974-8255.

— Mark D. Wilson, American-Statesman

NORTH AUSTIN

Austin police have issued an arrest warrant for a nursing home employee who is accused of beating a 90-year-old woman after she wet her bed in the facility in May.

Carly Vondra, a 44-year-old certified nurse’s assistant, faces a second-degree felony charge of injury to a disabled individual, according to an arrest affidavit filed on Monday.

Austin police began investigating the incident on May 12 after a woman at the Gracy Woods 1 Nursing Center in the 12000 block of Metric Boulevard reported that a new employee had assaulted her during the night, the affidavit said.

The woman told investigators that the employee turned her over on her stomach and hit her on her back several times, according to the report.

She said she thought the employee was upset with her because she wet her bed, and she was afraid to go back to the nursing home, the affidavit said.

Authorities at the nursing home identified Vondra as the employee who was caring for the woman on the night of the reported assault.

If convicted, Vondra faces between two and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. She was not in custody at the Travis County Jail on Tuesday evening, jail records show.

— Mark D. Wilson, American-Statesman



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