The Travis County Sheriff's Office denied more detainers than any other jail in the US from January 28, 2016-February 3, 2016. That's according to a new report from Immigration and customs enforcement.
ICE made the report public after the White House mandated it. A total of 206 detainers were denied during a five-day period. At least 142 of them are associated with Travis County.
Drug possession, DWI, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault are just some of the charges listed for suspected criminals who are not US citizens. According to the report, the Travis County Sheriff's office denied all of the immigration hold requests for those individuals.
“First and foremost this has been a public safety issue and it still is today,” say Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback. He’s also the Legislative Director for the Sheriff’s Association of Texas.
ICE says they plan to release the report weekly. This is the first of its kind. “The list is pretty clear,” says Louderback, adding, “it's 14 pages on the declined list that were Travis County. It's a 35 page report.”
Precinct 3 Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty is also weighing in. “You would have to take these things as somewhat accurate,” he says, adding, “and those are pretty staggering statistics.”
A spokesperson for the Travis County Sheriff's Office calls the timing of the report, “Ironic as the dates are during the roll out of the Travis County Sheriff's Office new policy. We believe the numbers are inflated due to initiation of our new policy. Any subsequent weekly reports will have substantially lower numbers."
Louderback disagrees, “any policy,” he says, “whether it be for political reason, for personal reason that needlessly endangers the public is fundamentally wrong.”
When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez' new immigration policy went into effect on February 1, detainers were only honored for four major crimes: Capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault, and human trafficking. The list now includes crimes against children or the elderly. It also allows detainers to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“The Travis County Sheriff's Office gives formal notification of all detainers denied,” a spokesperson for the office says, adding, “as far as cooperation goes, we are cooperating. Any time they ask us to take a second glance we do. It doesn't mean we always honor the detainer just because they ask, but we are willing to weigh additional information in the case to determine if the detainer should be honored."
But soon a case-by-case basis may not be an option. There is a law making its way through the legislature that would require jails in Texas to honor all detainers.
“I think it's pretty easy to deal with this and I think they need to comply,” Daugherty says. And it seems that law can't come soon enough for opponents to Hernandez's policy like Daugherty, “I’m a little tired of getting caught in something I think we shouldn't be in to begin with,” he says.
Sheriff's from Williamson County and Bastrop county tell Fox 7 their listings on this report are errors.
Both offices say the suspects were arrested in their respective counties on warrants from other jurisdictions. And that when they were transferred the ICE detainers went with them. Williamson County couldn't confirm which jurisdictions, they say they do believe they are ones where “ICE detainers are not honored.”
Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook tells Fox 7 all tgree of their individuals were transferred to the Travis County Jail with their respective detainers attached. Sheriff Cook says he has been in contact with ice and has asked them to update their database.
In a statement about the report, Governor Greg Abbott says, “Today’s report from DHS is deeply disturbing and highlights the urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “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.”