4:30 p.m. update: The Williamson County sheriff’s office has issued a statement calling the federal immigration report that indicated the county declined some federal detention requests “misleading.”
“Williamson County Sheriff’s Office honors all ICE detainers placed on individuals and will continue to do so,” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
Similar sentiments came from Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook. The report released earlier Monday showed Bastrop and Williamson counties refused detention requests filed on three and four inmates respectively.
Cook said the three inmates in question were arrested in Bastrop County but were later transferred to Travis County, where their ICE detention requests were refused.
“We were assured from the federal sources that those records would be corrected,” Cook said.
3:35 p.m. update: Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, in reaction to a federal report on Monday that outlined dozens of declined immigration detention requests in the county, pointed to Travis County’s relatively low crime rate.
“Questionable immigration status is not evidence in our state criminal justice system,” Eckhardt said in the statement. “If the accused is undocumented, that is a federal issue which ICE is free to pursue independently.”
Eckhardt said that Travis County remains focused on state criminal laws and that statewide data shows the county is serious about law enforcement. Eckhardt has been an ally of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez since Hernandez put in place a policy that greatly limited local cooperation with federal immigration detention requests.
“If a person is suspected of rape, murder or any other serious crime, Travis County will bring them to justice irrespective of where the accused was born,” Eckhardt said.
2 p.m. update: Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Monday in reaction to a federal report detailing detention requests refused in Travis County.
Abbott called the high number “disturbing,” and said it underscores a need to pass legislation that outlaws so-called “sanctuary policies.”
“Today’s report from DHS is deeply disturbing and highlights the urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas,” Abbott said. “The Travis County sheriff’s decision to deny ICE detainer requests and release back into our communities criminals charged with heinous crimes – including sexual offenses against children, domestic violence and kidnapping – is dangerous and should be criminal in itself. Texas will act to put an end to sanctuary policies that put the lives of our citizens at risk.”
Meanwhile, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said his county appeared erroneously in the report, which states the sheriff’s office refused four detention requests from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.
“I know we honor ICE detainers,” Chody said when reached by phone. Though ICE identified the inmates as living in the country illegally, “we were informed that no detainer would be placed on those individuals at separate times.”
Earlier: A new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement report on detention requests refused by local authorities places Travis County front and center.
Travis County had by far the most declined detention requests listed in a publication first released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday called the Declined Detainer Outcome Report.
The weekly publication was mandated by President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”
Travis County’s large number of ICE detention refusals coincided with the adoption of a new policy by Sheriff Sally Hernandez that greatly limited cooperation with ICE agents and compliance with requests to detain undocumented immigrants being held at the county jail.
Federal immigration authorities for years relied on local jails as a place to intercept inmates suspected of living in the country illegally and to begin processing them for possible deportation.
The report also shows that Bastrop and Williamson counties refused detention requests.
The report lists 142 inmates in Travis County who had ICE detention requests refused. In Bastrop County, three detention requests were refused and authorities in Williamson County refused four detention requests.
No other Texas counties were listed in the report, which summarizes operations from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.