Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez released a video Friday detailing her policy concerning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers in local jails.
The sheriff's policy, which will be effective Feb. 1, will only honor immigration detainers when the suspect booked into the Travis County Jail on charges of capital murder, aggravated sexual assault and "continuous smuggling of persons."
Hernandez said that TCSO will continue to cooperate with fellow local, state and federal law enforcement and immigration officials, but the office "will not increase our liability or set unwise public safety priorities simply to ease the burden of the federal government."
"Under previous policy, an inmate who is charged with a crime was deported as soon as he posted bond or before his court date. As such, the inmate never went before a court, the victim and family never had their day in court, and the inmate's criminal record would grow," Hernandez said. "This system does not foster public safety. Public safety is fostered whenever there is accountability and closure."
Hernandez went on to say, "The Travis County Sheriff's Office must enact policies that build public trust, including policies that make it clearer that as local law enforcement officers we will not interrogate or arrest someone over an unrelated fed immigration matter if they are trying to report a crime."
The federal government asked local jails to hold undocumented immigrants so ICE could pick them up and deport them once the county is done.
"Our jail cannot be perceived as a holding tank for ICE or that Travis County deputies are ICE officers," Hernandez said in the video.
"It is my policy to focus on local public safety priorities and leave it to fed immigration officials to focus on fed immigration enforcement," Hernandez said. "Travis County Sheriff's Office deputies and resources will be focused on serious criminals and true threats to public safety, regardless of immigration status. We will work with fed immigration officials, but this office will not increase our liability or set unwise public safety priorities simply to ease the burden of the fed government."
Hernandez said that immigration detainers cost the county taxpayer dollars and take up space in the jails.
"The sheriff's office was never intended to, nor is it capable, of acting as an immigration detention office," the sheriff said. "We are not able nor authorized to make a determination on whether someone is legally presented in the United States, has a legal status or is in the process of getting status."
Hernandez used the issue as part of her campaign for the office.
Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a response to the policy, saying:
The Governor's Office will cut funding for Travis County adopting sanctuary policies. Stiffer penalties coming. https://t.co/yYxeXql3xL— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 20, 2017
Austin city council member Greg Cesar, who has opposed unlimited deference to federal immigration authorities, released the following statement in support of Hernadez's position:
"Sheriff Hernandez’s new policies are a victory for public safety and civil rights in our community. Her policies will help all families, immigrants or not, feel more comfortable reporting crime to law enforcement. This is especially important in District 4, where over a third of our population is made of up immigrants. Sheriff Hernandez’s policies focus on community trust and public safety over politics. Her new policies strive to hold everyone accountable for violations of the law, rather than scapegoating and singling out immigrant communities.
Undoubtedly, Sheriff Hernandez will be falsely accused of skirting the law. It is not Sheriff Hernandez, but rather anti-immigrant leaders like Abbott and Trump who are advocating for policies that have been found unconstitutional: namely, the mass detention of immigrants without any criminal warrants. I hope more counties in Texas will follow Sheriff Hernandez’s example of upholding public safety and constitutional rights."
A full outline of the policy can by found here.
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