Hernandez: My promise to work against violent crimes while serving all

  • Sally Hernandez
  • Special to the American-Statesman
10:53 a.m. Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 Opinion
“It is not my place to write federal laws; it is my job to follow them and to create local policies that keep our community safe,” writes Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.

I came into my position as sheriff of Travis County 34 days ago motivated to keep our county among the safest areas in the country. Though I ran the gauntlet of an electoral process, I accepted this role as an experienced law enforcement officer — not a politician. I took office in the wake of unprecedented strain between communities of color and law enforcement officials. Certainly, we all can remember how it rattled us to learn of officers being shot in Dallas and the fear it created in our communities. One of my first orders of business has been to address the race-related strain that could threaten the peace and safety of our diverse county. That is what common-sense policing is about: solving the problems that present a potential threat to your community.

Misinformation is a common occurrence in these times. This seems to be especially prevalent in the matter of how Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers are discussed by career politicians. It seems everything has become a political battle. I never imagined the policy I put in place to protect our officers and the people we serve would be entered into political theater nor pushed into the national media spotlight.

As a sheriff and as a sworn officer, it is my job to follow and uphold the law. However, it is also my job to recognize that the legal landscape regarding ICE detainers has changed. The Department of Homeland Security proclaimed these holds to be voluntary — and court decisions across our nation called the validity of these holds into question. Our policies at the Travis County sheriff’s office are centered on all legal statutes and principles that are applicable to all. We proudly stand by our Constitution and our laws and plan to continue doing so. We will also continue to legally comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Violent crime and the greatest threats to our safety will continue to be handled firmly and with due process under the law. Violent criminals who are found undocumented and are arrested for capital murder, first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and continuous human trafficking will be turned over to federal authorities.

Immigration is a federally managed system of laws and policies. As sheriff, it is not my place to write federal laws; it is my job to follow them and to create local policies that keep our community safe. Like many other law enforcement communities around the country who have diverse populations, we have found that tasking our community police forces with the job of federal immigration agents creates a strain, which is why the detainer policy on nonviolent criminals is optional. We want Travis County to be a community that trusts law enforcement, brings them good information that helps solve crimes and runs to them when in need. I hope you will see that my motivation is to serve my entire community and be the best sheriff for all. This means doing what is necessary to keep our violent crime rates low and ensure that Travis County remains the kind of place where a diverse population wants to live.