A new report from the Department of Homeland Security shows Travis County declined more than 140 ICE detainer requests in a one-week period, but the sheriff's office is challenging the number.
The 35-page “Declined Detainer Outcome Report” (available to view here) was released Monday and includes 118 localities that have refused to cooperate with requests by federal authorities to detain undocumented immigrants. The Travis, Bastrop and Williamson County Jail are listed on the report, which covers requests that were declined during the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.
The report states 3,083 detainers were issued nationwide, with 206 (around 6.7 percent) of those declined. Travis County alone declined 142 of the 206 requests. Bastrop County declined three requests and Williamson County declined four. Some of the Travis County detainers turned down in this period date back to 2014.
The Travis County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday said the number of declined detainer requests is lower, at 128 inmates.
"Our agency’s new ICE policy went into effect February 1, 2017. On that date, we not only applied the policy to new and subsequent arrestees, we also re-assessed the detainer requests on all inmates in our custody at that time, some of whom had been there for many months," the sheriff's office said. "If their charges or prior convictions noted through criminal history check did not qualify for us to honor the detainer request under the new policy, we refused those detainers on that date."
"It has been widely reported that the inmates with declined detainers were released back into the community that week," TCSO added. "Inmates are in our custody as a result of criminal charges and no inmate is released until he/she has posted bond or until a judge has disposed of his/her charges. It is possible that persons on the Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, 2017 declined detainer list may still be in our custody, may be in ICE custody as the result of a warrant we received from them or may have been released on bond."
In the weeks since the new policy went into effect, TCSO said it has received fewer requests, accepting 30 requests and declining 11 others between Feb. 5 and March 18.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the following statement Monday following the report’s release:
“Today’s report from DHS is deeply disturbing and highlights the urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas. The Travis County Sheriff’s decision to deny ICE detainer requests and release back into our communities criminals charged with heinous crimes – including sexual offenses against children, domestic violence and kidnapping – is dangerous and should be criminal in itself. Texas will act to put an end to sanctuary policies that put the lives of our citizens at risk.”
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued the following statement:
"ICE’s mission is to enforce federal immigration laws. Travis County’s mission is to enforce state criminal laws. If a person is suspected of rape, murder or any other serious crime, Travis County will bring them to justice irrespective of where the accused was born. The crime rate in Travis County has steadily declined in recent years, dropping by approximately 30% since 2007. We are proud to have the lowest crime rate of any other major urbanized area in Texas. This data shows we are serious about public safety in Travis County. We concentrate on bringing the accused to justice. Questionable immigration status is not evidence in our state criminal justice system. If the accused is undocumented, that is a federal issue which ICE is free to pursue independently."
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody called the report "misleading." His full statement:
"On Monday, March 20, 2017 DHS released their weekly declined detainer outcome report. This report is misleading and lists Williamson County Jail as an agency that refuses to cooperate with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants. Williamson County Sheriff’s Office honors all ICE detainers placed on individuals and will continue to do so. The report stated that Williamson County refused four detention requests from January 28 to February 3. The individuals listed on the report were arrested in Williamson County and a detainer was placed on all four individuals. They were later transferred to different jurisdictions where we believe ICE detainers are not honored. At this moment we cannot confirm the jurisdictions to which they were transferred. We will continue to look into it and will keep you informed."
In an executive order signed Jan. 25, President Donald Trump said the list is necessary to “better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to start producing the list last month.
The charges range from homicide and rape to driving violations and probation violations. The majority of the cases, 56%, were people charged with crimes but have not been convicted. Under President Barack Obama, undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes were considered priorities for deportation. Trump changed those priorities to include undocumented immigrants accused of any crime.
ICE detainers have been a controversial issue for years, as several federal courts have ruled that local authorities are under no legal obligation to honor them. But Trump said "sanctuary jurisdictions" that don't fully comply with federal immigration requests will be punished with the loss of federal grants. Hundreds of local police agencies depend on hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
TAP HERE to view the full report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
USA TODAY contributed to this report.