Travis Co. ICE detainer policy under fire

State Senator Dawn Buckingham called a Tuesday afternoon news conference to replay a report from Monday night's FOX 7's newscast. The report was on Javier Gallardo-Gonzalez, an undocumented immigrant in the Travis County jail. FOX 7 learned he was set to be released, despite facing a child sex assault charge. Senator Buckingham (R) of Travis County, blamed a new controversial policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez for that action.

"All right, I think we can all agree this is indefensible,” said Senator Buckingham.

Jail officials reportedly claimed a mix up was to blame for refusing to honor a federal request to hold Gonzalez, but clarified that in a statement sent to FOX 7. According to Jail Administrator Wes Priddy;

“Earlier today, media outlet(s) reported a pending release of Inmate Hugo Javier Gallardo-Gonzalez from the Travis County Jail after the posting of a bond.  An ICE detainer had been requested and initially declined, since it was not apparent that the noted charge met criteria established by current TCSO Policy.  After reviewing the probable cause affidavit submitted for the charge of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child or Children, which was received by booking staff after magistration on the charge, staff learned of the aggravated sexual abuse element contained therein.  Actions were immediately taken to reinstate the requested ICE detainer to keep Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez in custody.  He remains in the custody of the Travis county jail. The Travis County Sheriff's Office intends to review this matter and consider possible policy modifications to account for similar future issues.”

Despite that statement, Senator Buckingham, and the Republican lawmakers who joined her, blamed the near release on a new policy by Sheriff Sally Hernandez. It limits what ICE detainers will be honored at the jail.

"We have a clear message to Sheriff Hernandez, again please rescind your policies. I want a safe Travis County and a safe Texas it is time to do the right thing,” said Buckingham.

Sheriff Hernandez’s ICE detainer policy only holds inmates who are charged with serious crimes.  Capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking. In a recent interview the sheriff told FOX 7 her policy won a November mandate.

"I think it is a policy that Travis County wants, they voted on and I think it's important to fulfill what I campaigned on and what I think is very important," said Hernandez.

Documents obtained by FOX 7 show in the first two days of the Hernandez policy nearly 50 undocumented offenders were allowed back on the streets. The charges include; drunk driving, assault, sex crimes, strangulation, as well as endangering and injury to a child (a full list is attached here). To get out, most of the inmates only had to sign a document promising to come back for court hearings.

In a surprise move two prominent Democrats in the state Senate called on Sheriff Hernandez to change her policy.

"Now understand these persons are innocent until proven guilty however, if you have these types of offenses being committed, by persons who do not belong in this country, and there is a detainer, you need to detain them, end of story,” said Senator Royce West (D) of Dallas.

State Senator Carlos Uresti (D) of San Antonio considers the Hernandez policy to be a distraction from the larger immigration reform debate.

"We agree there are some things that we can agree on in a partisan, bipartisan manner rather and I think this is one of them,” said Uresti.

The two Democrats still stand by their vote against SB4 which would ban sanctuary city policies. The legislation, if passed, could hold local officials like Sheriff Hernandez criminally and civilly accountable for not honoring ICE detainers.

Members of the Travis County Commissioners - with the exception of commissioner Gerald Daughtery, said Tuesday that they still support Sheriff Hernandez and her ICE detainer policy.  The county is still looking at ways to replace grant money that’s being with-held by Governor Abbott because of the policy.

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