Doggett condemns ‘vindictiveness’ of Abbott cutting Travis County grants


Gov. Greg Abbott is carrying out a promise, effective immediately, to withhold state grant money administered by his office to Travis County because of a new jail policy related to immigration, his office told the American-Statesman on Wednesday.

“This morning, the governor’s office is canceling all currently active Travis County criminal justice grants,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said.

So far, the state has paid only about $300,000 of $1.8 million to the county, so the loss will total about $1.5 million.

RELATED: More state funding could be in jeopardy in ‘sanctuary city’ clash

Sheriff Sally Hernandez said in an interview with reporters Wednesday that she is following state and federal laws and has no plans to change her new policy.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt also responded Wednesday — in both a news conference and a two-page letter to Abbott.

She said the county will work to continue operating programs that were paid for by the grants.

“I am confident Sheriff Hernandez’s policy is well within the current law,” Eckhardt wrote. “I am certain you have come to the same conclusion; else you would not be seeking to change the current state law to put all Texas sheriffs in the service the United States Department of Homeland Security.”

However, Eckhardt said the county will obey any future state laws that may be adopted concerning the matter.

“We will comply by shifting our limited resources to federal responsibilities,” she wrote.

Also Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett released a statement condemning Abbott’s actions, saying, “Its vindictiveness is more like Russian President Putin’s authoritarian regime than our democracy. His anti-immigrant hysteria damages local law enforcement and our entire community.”

The grants support projects such as family violence education and a special court for veterans.

Abbott’s announcement comes as Hernandez enacted a new policy Wednesday under which she will detain inmates on behalf of federal immigration officials only when they are charged with murder, sexual assault or human smuggling.

The new policy changes a longstanding agreement that allowed agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to place “immigration holds” or “detainers” on Travis County inmates — no matter the seriousness of the crime for which they are arrested — when agents want to further investigate their status.

But critics have said the process results in deportations of people for relatively minor crimes. They also contend that suspects might be held indefinitely, only for agents to later discover they have legal permission to stay in the U.S.

Voters supported Hernandez in the Democratic primary after she campaigned on ending local cooperation with federal immigration officials at the Travis County Jail.

Abbott and his supporters say that such resistance amounts to sheriffs refusing to follow the law.

In a letter to Hernandez in late January, the governor vowed to work with the Legislature to “protect our citizens from misguided and dangerous sanctuary policies.”

“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.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the nature of the grants. The money is administered by the governor’s office.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Texas oil and gas regulator: Science isn’t settled on global warming
Texas oil and gas regulator: Science isn’t settled on global warming

Contrary to widely held conclusions by scientists, a senior official in Texas’ oil and gas regulatory agency said Tuesday “we don’t know whether man-made greenhouse gases are impacting our climate in a harmful way.” Wayne Christian, a Republican elected in 2016 to the state Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas operations...
Abbott calls June 30 special election to replace disgraced congressman
Abbott calls June 30 special election to replace disgraced congressman

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered an emergency special election for June 30 to elect a U.S. representative for a congressional district that stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop and Caldwell counties. The winner will serve out the remaining months of the two-year term of U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, who resigned in early April...
Man arrested after SWAT standoff at La Quinta Inn in North Austin

NORTH AUSTIN Man arrested after SWAT standoff at La Quinta Inn Austin police have arrested a man who had threatened to shoot anyone who approached him in a North Austin hotel bathroom. SWAT officers used pepper spray to force the man to leave the lobby bathroom at the La Quinta Inn and Suites near the Domain shopping center, police said. A police spokesman...
Jam session with Austin musicians leads to fatal stabbing conviction
Jam session with Austin musicians leads to fatal stabbing conviction

A chance meeting between two Austin musicians led to the violent death of one man and a felony conviction for the other. James Miller, a former Austin police employee who took up the guitar in retirement, was found guilty Tuesday of criminally negligent homicide in the September 2015 stabbing of saxophonist Daniel Spencer. The two had gathered to drink...
Police search for Sun City prowler involved in 50 incidents since 2016
Police search for Sun City prowler involved in 50 incidents since 2016

Georgetown police are looking for a prowler in the Sun City retirement community who has never hurt anyone but has shown some very strange behavior. He rings doorbells and then leaves, lurks in backyards, stands outside people’s windows while talking on a cellphone and on several occasions has entered through unlocked doors and stood over the...
More Stories