BASTROP, Texas - From the steps of Juan Diego Catholic Church residents of this small west Bastrop County neighborhood Monday said they have lost faith in their local sheriff.
They want Sheriff Maurice cook to change the way he enforces traffic laws.
“We know under SB4 he cannot instruct the deputies to not to ask about status, but we are asking that they not do that, and not stop people for minor traffic violations,” said Edie Clark with Bastrop Interfaith.
The group is upset with how Bastrop County deputies conducted a recent traffic safety initiative. They admit they had asked the sheriff to do something about speeders in their neighborhood. But when he did some of those who were stopped also ended up being turned over to federal ICE agents because they are undocumented immigrants.
“These were very minor traffic infractions, to many this appeared to be a targeted effort to locate and detained undocumented people,” said Clark.
Some of the traffic stops happened in front of Veronica Reyes who also spoke at the gathering. Reyes says her neighbors want safe streets but also claims they are now worried about being deported if caught violating a traffic law. That dilemma has placed the community in somewhat of a catch 22.
“We don’t know,” said Reyes when asked if she has a solution.
The group is calling for a meeting with the Sheriff in hopes of getting some answers.
“We won’t know nothing until we meet with him,” said Alma Lopez. Who agreed with Reyes that they just want to feel safe.
According to the Bastrop sheriff’s office the traffic safety initiative ran on a Saturday in late June.
63 stops were made.
24 resulted in arrests.
13 were drivers identified as undocumented.
Charges for the 13 included;
4 invalid licenses
6 without a license.
Sheriff Cook, who spoke to FOX 7 Austin’s Jennifer Kendall shortly after the operation, defended the crackdown.
“Our Target is not to target illegal immigrants, but I’m not going to apologize for arresting people that turn out to be illegal immigrants,” said Sheriff Cook.
The residents were clearly expecting something else. They feel a little mislead because the traffic initiative, which they requested, came a few days after they had met with the sheriff. They met to talk about finding ways to sidestep the immigration question.
“We ask Sheriff Cook to meet with leaders of Bastrop Interfaith to develop a strategy to heal the community’s broken confidence,” said Clark.
The sheriff claims questions about immigration status are resolved in the county jail and not during a traffic stop.