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Gov. Greg Abbott cuts funding to Texas county over ‘sanctuary city’ policy

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas's City Hall near the area that is still an active crime scene in downtown Dallas following the deaths of five police officers last night on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Five police officers were killed and seven others were injured in the evening ambush during a march against recent police involved shootings. Investigators are saying the suspect is 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas. This is the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since September 11. (Image source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Jon Street

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott cut more than a million dollars in law enforcement grants to one county after its sheriff refused to hold illegal immigrants until federal immigration officers can deport them.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez released a video Friday, which details how the new policy works. It took effect Wednesday, KVUE-TV reported. The policy was first announced January 23, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“It is my policy to focus on local public safety priorities and leave it to fed[eral] immigration officials to focus on fed[eral] immigration enforcement,” Hernandez told KVUE-TV.

Hernandez said that by focusing local officers’ time and resources on illegal immigrants, they could be further risking the safety of the those they are sworn to protect. She vowed to work with federal immigration authorities in other areas, but made clear that when it comes to holding illegal immigrants charged with crimes, the county will not act as a detainer until the suspects are deported.

The only exceptions to the new policy are in cases of murder, aggravated sexual assault or human smuggling.

“Our jail cannot be perceived as a holding tank for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or that Travis County deputies are ICE officers,” Hernandez said, KVUE reported.

“Travis County Sheriff’s Office deputies and resources will be focused on serious criminals and true threats to public safety, regardless of immigration status. We will work with fed[eral] immigration officials, but this office will not increase our liability or set unwise public safety priorities simply to ease the burden of the fed government,” Hernandez added.

But on the same day that Hernandez’s policy went into effect, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to withhold $1.5 million in state law enforcement grant funding from Travis County. The state has already paid out about $300,000 of the grant, but as a result of Abbott’s action, the remaining $1.5 million will not be awarded.

The money had been earmarked for crime victim services, courts and other law enforcement programs, according to Fox News.

And, according to Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Abbott is well within his right to withhold Texas taxpayer money.

Taking the fight against “sanctuary cities” one step further, Abbott announced legislation Wednesday during an interview on Fox News that, if passed by the state legislature, would “ban sanctuary cities [and] remove from office any officer-holder who promotes sanctuary cities.”

The controversy comes just two weeks after the election of President Donald Trump, who took a hardline stance on illegal immigration throughout his campaign and has promised to end “sanctuary cities” that harbor illegal immigrants.