ICE detainers at the center of race for the next Travis County Sheriff

"Our community, the immigrant community is afraid because I.C.E. is in the jails." That's why Antolin Aguirre says the undocumented immigrant who was supposed to talk to Fox 7 on Thursday never showed up.

"When the police stop the people they ask him for driver's license," Aguirre says, "and they don't have driver's license and the I.D., then the process from ice started to deported."

The voluntary cooperation between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and the Travis County Sheriff's office has long been the focus of a contentious debate. One, that was fueled in 2014 when Sheriff Greg Hamilton reinforced his policy to hold people with an immigration history after they are notified by I.C.E. "I've got a job to do," he said at the time, "and that's to maintain the safety and security in this community. And that's why I will continue to honor the detainers."

And as Hamilton's job as Travis County's top cop comes to an end, two candidates are going head to head vying for his spot. 

"We are a country of laws," says Republican Joe Martinez. "When you take the oath of office to uphold the law, it doesn't say you have a choice of which laws you are going to enforce."

Martinez says he'll push the I.C.E. policy forward if he's elected in November. "If in fact you are here out of this country," he says defiantly, "I'm going to find out who you are, if you belong here, fine, if you have issues with the federal government and immigration, that's between you and the federal government."

"It prevents them from wanting to come forward," says his Democratic opponent, Precinct 4 Constable Sally Hernandez, adding, "it prevents them from wanting to report crime, it prevents them from wanting to be a witness in a crime."

She says changing the policy will fix that. "I'm trying to say that just because they are from another country doesn't mean that they should be deported. Let's produce the probable cause, let's go through the process, let's be fair."

Martinez worries that that line of thinking will invite more than just people looking for a better life.

"There's the MS-13 gang, there's cartels that send people across the border," he says, drawing on his long history as a law enforcement officer. "Who are we to say that our next door neighbor isn't an MS-13 gang member? Gang members come over to do what? Harm, harm to American citizens."

Hernandez disagrees, "It's not the gang members, we're just deporting a lot of people that are over here trying to make a living and help their family."

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