When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez stopped detaining jail inmates for federal immigration checks, Gov. Greg Abbott quickly tried to change her mind with a tried and true incentive: Money.
The choice was clear. Continue housing inmates while immigration agents investigate their status, and the county could keep getting $1.5 million in state grants being used for family violence education, the county’s veterans court program and services for crime victims. Refuse, and Abbott would pull the money.
The political standoff ended when Hernandez didn’t waver, and Abbott carried out his threat, declaring on Twitter that he would “hammer” Travis County and that “we will not flinch in our resolve to keep Texas safe.”
The use of public money by one elected official to control or punish a political rival is not uncommon at any level of government and has been successfully used at times to sway votes or policy.
Yet political observers say Abbott has taken that practice a step further, cutting funds that are not under Hernandez’s control and that don’t even affect services offered by the sheriff’s office.