Governor Greg Abbott hammers a Texas sheriff after she refuses to comply with immigration laws

Governor Greg Abbott hammers a Texas sheriff after she refuses to comply with immigration laws
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during the opening of the Texas Republican Convention Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given no quarter in his war against sanctuary cities within his state. He has already made himself “abundantly clear” in making sure any towns within the state of Texas obey immigration laws, and that he doesn’t “care what jurisdiction you’re at in the state of Texas. You are going to comply with the law.”

It would appear that Abbott may have to back up his word against Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has forbid anyone in her offices to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

In a letter sent to Hernandez, Abbott called her directive “dangerous” and “shortsighted,” and proceeded to make the threat that if she does not reverse this policy by February 1st, the consequences would be incredibly expensive, in the form of millions of dollars being cut from the funding budget for the Travis County Sheriff’s Department.

Abbott sets up by telling Hernandez that she had betrayed her oath by adopting this policy.

As Sheriff your primary duty is to ensure the safety of the residents of Travis County. However, your recent policy directive forbidding Travis County Sherriff’s Office (TCSO) employees from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (except in the most limited of circumstances) betrays your oath and the residents of Travis County. I strongly urge you to reverse that policy before its effective date of February 1, 2017.

Hernandez had at one point attempted to justify her directive, but Abbott, is having none of it, smashes her reasoning.

You offer two justifications for your actions, but both are frivolous. First, you claim you have no legal power to comply with ICE detainers. That proves too much, of course, because by your own admission, TCSO will honor some ICE detainers — for example, when the alien is charged with or convicted of capital murder. You have the exact same legal authority to honor ICE detainers for capital murder cases as you do for other crimes that you personally deem unworthy of enforcement. Second, you claim that TCSO should focus on “public safety,” while the federal government focuses on immigration enforcement. That ignores, of course, that the individuals subject to ICE detainers pose grave threats to public safety. The whole point of ICE’s detainer program is to ensure that the worst of the worst do not walk free and further jeopardize public safety.

An just to make it clear, he gives Hernandez some “staggering” numbers to bring home the reality of just how dangerous her policy is.

Indeed, the potential impact of this public safety program is staggering. Since 2011, over 200,000 undocumented aliens have been booked into Texas jails. These undocumented aliens were charged with more than 559,000 criminal offenses. According to Texas Department Public Safety, those included 1,132 homicide charges; 66,687 assault charges; 16,304 burglary charges; 66,289 drug charges; 682 kidnapping charges; 39,689 theft charges; 43,723 obstructing police charges; 3,677 robbery charges; 5,903 sexual assault charges; and 8,375 weapons charges. Of the total undocumented aliens arrested in that time frame, over 139,000, or 66 percent, were identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as being in the United States illegally at the time of a previous arrest

He holds little of his disapproval of this directive back.

Your shortsighted policy ignores those astounding figures and would permit TCSO employees to comply with an ICE detainer request in only the most limited of circumstances. Under your reckless policy, for example, dangerous criminal aliens convicted of felonies like murder; aggravated assault; human trafficking, including child sex trafficking; aggravated kidnapping; inducing sexual performance by a child or indecency with a child; dangerous gang activities; and the manufacture or delivery of deadly substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, GHB, PCP, and ketamine will be turned loose into Travis County without permitting ICE the opportunity to collect them.

Abbott then lets Hernandez know that if she doesn’t comply, then he will drop the hammer.

In the coming days, my office will reach out to you. We will ask that you reverse your policy and recommit to enforce federal immigration laws. Failure to accomplish both of those tasks prior to February 1, 2017, will disqualify Travis County from receiving subsequent CJD grant money.

Since President Donald Trump has been on confirmed to take office, Abbott has been very proactive about immigration issues in the state of Texas. He has threatened before to cut funding from any campus or city that labels itself a “sanctuary” for illegals. His threats against Sheriff Hernandez will very likely be followed up on.

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