Abbott to seek law to remove Texas sheriffs who don’t help immigration officials


12:30 p.m. update: Congressman Lloyd Doggett has issued a statement calling Gov. Greg Abbott’s comments on Fox News unlawful demands.

Abbott said he would have Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez removed from office if Hernandez does not rescind a policy that would limit compliance with federal immigration authorities.

“Neither Gov. Abbott nor the Legislature have any authority to remove a duly elected sheriff, whose office is established by the Texas Constitution,” Doggett said in the statement. “The governor shows contempt for both the Texas Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution.”

Hernandez has refused several requests for comment since she announced a new policy that would greatly limit her staff’s compliance with federal requests to detain certain undocumented immigrants jailed in Travis County.

“Ours is not a ‘sanctuary’ city or county, but a refuge from anti-immigrant hysteria, with a strong commitment to effective law enforcement,” Doggett’s statement continued. “Gov. Abbott and his cronies have tried to remove me personally from office more than once; he will be equally unsuccessful trying to eliminate others who don’t fix his narrow Republican political mold.”

Abbott wants Texas sheriffs such as Hernandez to comply with so-called detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which are requests to allow federal agents to further investigate whether a person who has been arrested and booked into jail is in the country legally.

Hernandez has said the practice divides local law enforcement from an important segment of the community who should feel comfortable reporting crimes.

The GOP caucus in the Texas Senate sent a letter to Hernandez on Wednesday, echoing Abbott’s sentiments.

The letter, whose signatories included Central Texas Republicans Dawn Buckingham, Donna Campbell and Charles Schwertner, called Hernandez’s policy change a “reckless and blatant political stunt.”

The senators wrote that they “strongly condemn this lawless ‘sanctuary’ policy” and demanded its immediate end.

Earlier: Gov. Greg Abbott, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, said he and other lawmakers will seek new laws to remove Texas sheriffs from office if they do not fully cooperate with federal immigration officials over the handling of individuals who are thought to be undocumented immigrants.

Abbott has previously said he will strip state grant funding from Travis County if Sheriff Sally Hernandez does not change her recently announced policy that curtails cooperation with federal immigration officials.

But in the interview, he went further, saying “We will remove her from office.”

Under Abbott’s proposal, Texas sheriffs would also face criminal and civil penalties for not complying with so-called detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The detainers typically are requests to allow federal agents to further investigate whether a person who has been arrested and booked into the Travis County Jail is in the country legally.

Hernandez has said the practice divides local law enforcement from an important segment of the community who should feel comfortable reporting crimes.

RELATED: Abbott tells Travis County sheriff her immigration policy is “reckless”

Earlier this week, Abbott sent a letter to Hernandez in which he threatened penalties for what he called her “reckless actions” and urged her to immediately change course.

Abbott did not specify what action he intended to take aside from withholding about $2 million in state grants, but he vowed to work with the Legislature to “protect our citizens from misguided and dangerous sanctuary policies,” according to the letter.

“Texas must enact tough penalties that punish those who would put themselves above the law, and even above the community they purportedly serve,” Abbott wrote.

Hernandez, in a YouTube video released Friday that coincided with the inaugural celebrations for President Donald Trump, said she would end a longstanding blanket Travis County policy of honoring ICE detainers in most instances.

Under her new policy, Hernandez, who took office this month, said she will honor such detainers only in cases in which a suspect has been charged with murder, sexual assault or human smuggling or if federal agents get a court order or an arrest warrant.

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

Abbott has accused Hernandez, a former Travis County constable, of violating her oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and State of Texas.”

Manny Garcia, the Texas Democratic Party’s deputy executive director, defended Hernandez, a fellow Democrat who was elected with 60 percent of the vote.

“No one made Greg Abbott the emperor of Texas. He cannot overturn the will of Texas voters,” Garcia said in a statement Wednesday.

 


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