Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Wednesday blasted threats made by the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Fox News to jail local officials who enforce so-called sanctuary policies.
“Threatening to jail political opponents, especially for laws they aren’t breaking, is not the America I grew up in,” Adler said in a statement. “I will oppose anti-immigrant policies, regardless of the personal consequences, because spreading fear and making threats makes us all less safe.”
Thomas Homan, the ICE acting director, told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Tuesday that he believes “sanctuary cities are violating federal law.” Homan also called on the Justice Department to begin researching how it might jail politicians who enact policies that prevent full cooperation with ICE requests to hold onto jail inmates suspected of being in the country illegally.
“We’ve got to take these sanctuary cities on, we’ve got to take them to court, and we have to start charging some of these politicians with crimes,” Homan said.
Homan made the comments in response to a new law making California a sanctuary state. The measure prevents police from asking people about their immigration status, and it allows jail officials to transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities only if they have been convicted of certain crimes.
Despite Travis County becoming a lightning rod last year over the new sheriff’s policies limiting cooperation with ICE agents, Homan’s threats have little applicability in Travis County while state Senate Bill 4 remains on the books.
When a court ruling allowed most of SB 4 to go into effect, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez backed off her earlier policy of ignoring most of the so-called ICE detainers that agents placed on inmates of the Travis County Jail who are accused of being in the country illegally. Under Hernandez’s old policy, the jail honored ICE requests only for inmates accused of murder, human trafficking and other violent crimes.
That policy drew fire from Gov. Greg Abbott, who called for Hernandez to be removed from office and possibly thrown in jail. Abbott also pulled $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from Travis County as punishment.
In May, Abbott signed into law SB 4, which creates civil and criminal penalties for any elected official who prevents local cooperation with federal immigration detention requests. The measure also empowers local police to investigate a person’s immigration status during routine police interactions, such as traffic stops.
Supporters of SB 4 believe the law will take criminals off the streets. Opponents say the law will lead to racial profiling, create distrust between residents and police, and break up immigrant families.
While SB 4 is facing challenges from most of Texas’ largest cities in federal court, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let most of the law go into effect in September. Now Hernandez is honoring all ICE requests.
Adler was not the only Texas mayor to criticize Homan’s comments. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told The Dallas Morning News that Homan’s threats were “total hogwash.”