A federal judge said Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeted Travis County in retaliation over Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy on detainers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said ICE met with him and Judge Mark Lane in late January to tell them about a major operation they were planning. Austin said in a March 20 court hearing the agents revealed they were bringing in other officer from out of town, and that they were doing it because Hernandez said she would only hold inmates for ICE if they had been charged with capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault or continuous human smuggling.

“It was going to be a specific operation -- and at least related to us in that meeting, that it was the result of the sheriff's new policy,” Austin said.

The judge went on to say, “My understanding is that, what was told to us, is that one of the reasons that happened is that the meetings that had occurred between the field office director and the sheriff didn't go very well.”

ICE arrested 51 people in the Austin area thought to be in the United States illegally in mid-February, and records obtained by the KVUE Defenders show 28 of them had no criminal history.

Judge Austin also went after an ICE agent on the stand about the March 3 arrest of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero when he showed up to court, asking point blank if it is part of their modus operandi. The agent testified that he did not think that arresting people as they show up to court is a new policy for the agency.

A spokeswoman for Sheriff Hernandez tells KVUE and the Statesman she has no comment because she was not part of any meeting between federal judges and ICE agents.