A big showdown over sanctuary cities is set for Wednesday at the Texas State Legislature. House members will consider their version of legislation to crack down on so-called "Sanctuary Cities." But, it’s been questioned if Austin and Travis County are even considered a "Sanctuary Community?"
Austin Mayor Steve Adler went to Washington D.C. to talk with the U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions to get an answer to that question. “The big take away when looking at the President’s executive order back in January was that it was real uncertain as to what a city or county needed to do in order to be sanctionable,” Mayor Adler said.
Adler along with other mayors, police chiefs, and city leaders met with Attorney General Sessions Tuesday to get a better understanding what it means to be considered a "Sanctuary Community." The label could cost cities and counties federal grant money as part of the Trump administrations immigration crackdown.
Adler said while he didn't ask Sessions directly whether Travis County qualifies as a sanctuary community, based on his meeting he believes Travis County is not in violation of federal law. “The sheriff had been saying that what she was doing didn't violate federal law. I have also repeated that as has the County Judge Eckhart, but yet there were a lot of people that still think that the policy does violate federal law, so it's good to get confirmation that it does not,” Mayor Adler said.
Mayor Adler’s findings appear to be vindication for Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, in a statement to FOX 7 Hernandez said "I honestly appreciate the fact that the attorney general acknowledged what I intended all along, that I am obeying the law and upholding the constitution. To me it feels good because I have said all along that I was doing the right thing for the right reason."
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt also released a statement, “I am grateful for the efforts of Mayor Adler and the many other mayors who met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security officials regarding federal immigration enforcement. We at the local level do not enforce federal immigration laws. We enforce state criminal laws. In doing so, Travis County does not withhold information nor otherwise obstruct enforcement by federal immigration officials. Based on the account of the mayors’ meeting, Attorney General Sessions implicitly agrees. And, based on its ruling today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California explicitly agrees – “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”
John Wittman a spokesman for Governor Greg Abbott released a statement that said "Unlike the mayor and the Travis County Sheriff, the governor believes that releasing violent and dangerous criminal aliens back into our communities once they have had an ice detainer placed on them is unacceptable. That's why Texas will pass a law to require counties to comply with ice detainer requests. It's the governor's belief that Travis County is refusing to live up to this common sense safety standard."
A Texas Sanctuary Cities bill is scheduled to be debated in the house chamber Wednesday. Mayor Adler said he remains opposed to any type of state crackdown. “It goes beyond federal law, it takes something that is voluntary and tries to make it mandatory and it takes something that is not enforceable and makes it sanctionable,” he said.