Travis Co. Commissioners discuss Hernandez ICE policy

Last Friday, new Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced she's changing a few things when it comes to holding inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Starting February 1, ICE will have to get a federal warrant first.
On Tuesday morning, Matthew Simpson with the ACLU argued before the Travis County Commissioners Court, the new policy won't put the community in any danger.

"For example, someone that comes through our criminal justice system locally and is convicted of murder -- that person will be sent to prison not to ICE.  And so the idea that these detainers somehow change the criminal conviction and criminal process is really inaccurate," Simpson said.

Stephanie Gharakhanian with the Worker's Defense Project echoed that.

"What Sally Hernandez is saying with her new policy is that she doesn't want the county jail to be detaining immigrants after their criminal charges have been dropped, after they have posted bail," Gharakhanian said.

This week Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to Hernandez basically giving her one more chance to reconsider before implementing the policy or he'll cut $1.8 million in Criminal Justice Grant money.  Something that Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty says frightens him.

"I think it will turn out to be more than $1.8 million.  Those are just some of the grants that we can identify that we know that we get from the Governor's office and then there are some Federal dollars and I think the Fed action may mirror what the Governor is saying," Daugherty said.

Daugherty says what the Governor is asking for isn't ambiguous.  He wishes Hernandez would just comply with his demands instead of losing that $1.8 million.

"Most of it is used for the court system...where you have DWI courts, where you have victims services.  I mean they're really important dollars," Daugherty said.

And if the grant money is cut off, Daugherty says don't count on him to be willing to find money elsewhere.

"It's certainly terrible for our budget.  Because I think there will be some folks on the court that will continue to want to fund those programs which means we likely are to raise taxes.  And I think there will be people fighting mad over that and I think they will be justified," Daugherty said.

But according to Simpson and Gharakhanian treating all inmates equally instead of holding some for ICE -- could save money.

"He is threatening to withdraw $1.8 million in funds from Travis County but we know that complying with ICE detainer requests costs Travis County upwards of $600,000 a month.  So the math also adds up," Gharakhanian said.

She's referring to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards' "Immigration Detainer Report" from November.  According to the document, that month Travis County held 253 inmates which cost them $639,400.05.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued a statement saying:

“Our Governor seems to have misplaced his knowledge of Texas Criminal Procedure and U.S. Constitutional Law. Place of birth alone is no indication that a person is a threat to public safety under the criminal laws of Texas or is in violation of immigration laws of the U.S. Under both Texas and U.S. Constitutions, jailers and immigration agents do not determine probable cause to detain a person. Only a judge can make that determination. It’s called a warrant.

I fully support Sheriff Hernandez requiring a warrant to deprive anyone of his or her liberty under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Like Sheriff Hernandez, I trust Texas judges to timely issue warrants of arrest when our public safety is threatened, irrespective of where the threat was born.

The Governor seeks to punish communities that uphold the 4th Amendment prohibition on unwarranted detainer by withdrawing funding for programs that help women, children and veterans. Governor Abbott is engaging in the politics of fear at the expense of our deepest held values.”


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