U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday he plans to crack down on "Sanctuary Cities."
"Sanctuary Cities" are cities which do not actively enforce immigration law, and who do not turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. Supporters say that policy makes immigrants more likely to report crimes, seek medical attention and enroll their kids in school. But critics argue that it allows repeat criminal offenders to go free and puts communities at risk. Sessions said if cities refuse to comply, they risk losing federal funding.
While there's no official definition of what makes a city a “Sanctuary" many have been labeled that way, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin. So, how will the announcement from Sessions affect the Capitol city, Austin City Mayor Steve Adler said he's actually confused by the statement the attorney general made. But he said Austin doesn't have anything to worry about because we are not violating any federal or state laws and neither is Travis County.
"Essentially the policies of the Obama administration that were issued last July make clear that you should not be receiving certain federal funds if you're not in compliance with 1373,” said Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney General. “When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe. Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities and the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators." Sessions said the justice department will require cities seeking some of the $4.1 billion dollars available in grant money to verify they are in compliance with federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.
While Austin has been dubbed one of those so called sanctuary cities, Austin City Mayor Steve Adler said we have nothing to worry about. “Over the last few months, I have heard a thousand different definitions of what a sanctuary city is which makes it very hard to answer the question, ‘Hey are you a sanctuary city?’”
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been releasing information about cases where immigrants have been released from custody before federal agents could intervene. Travis County had been listed dozens of times.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who's come under fire by Governor Greg Abbott in recent months over her sanctuary city policy, released this statement in response to Sessions announcement saying:
“Travis County Sheriff’s Office is completely lawful and upholding the Constitution with our ICE policy. We are also in full compliance with 8 USC 1373. Our policy states in item #10 that “This policy in no way prohibits or restricts sending information to or requesting or receiving information from ICE regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status, and nothing in this policy shall be construed to prohibit or restrict TCSO personnel from exchanging information regarding the immigration or citizenship status of any individual with ICE. Our ICE policy is in place to uphold our status as one of the safest counties in the nation as well as to reduce Travis County’s liability by requiring ICE to provide warrants rather than requests.”
Sheriff Hernandez shared the same sentiment as Mayor Adler and said the Travis County Sheriff's Office is completely lawful and upholding the constitution with its ice policy. “If I use the definition that seems to be contained in the President’s executive order and in the statement made by the attorney general today then Austin would not be a sanctuary city because we are not violating federal laws,” Mayor Adler said.