Politi Fact:

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - ALSO IN­SIDE

Check­ing Ab­bott’s tweet about Travis sher­iff,

Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who shut off about $1.5 mil­lion in grants to Travis County out of con­cern that the county’s Demo­cratic of­fi­cials un­duly shield unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants, sub­se­quently ac­cused the lo­cal sher­iff of break­ing a fed­eral law.

The Repub­li­can gov­er­nor said in a Feb. 6 tweet: “Sher­iff vi­o­lates oath by re­fus­ing to en­force 8 USC 1373 & not giving ICE info about drugs car­tels & armed rob­bers.” ICE is Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, the fed­eral agency that fo­cuses on bat­tling the il­le­gal move­ment of peo­ple and trade.

Ab­bott didn’t of­fer fac­tual backup for his charge.

Sep­a­rately Wes Priddy, of the Travis County sher­iff ’s of­fice, told us there’s been no change in op­er­a­tions that would vi­o­late the cited law. “I don’t know where the gov­er­nor is get­ting his in­for­ma­tion or his point of view. I sus­pect it’s just con­jec­ture,” Priddy said.

We dug deeper as we put the gov­er­nor’s tweet to the Texas Truth-O-Me­ter.

The law that Ab­bott sin­gled out doesn’t per­tain to lo­cal po­lice agen­cies ac­cept­ing or re­fus­ing “de­tainer” re­quests from fed­eral au­thor­i­ties seek­ing a hold on in­mates so agents can con­sider them for de­por­ta­tion.

In­stead, the gov­er­nor’s tweet refers to a 216-word law that’s fo­cused on eas­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion between fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties and lo­cal law agen­cies.

Ti­tled “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion between gov­ern­ment agen­cies and the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice,” the 1990s law bars fed­eral, state or lo­cal agen­cies or of­fi­cials from re­strict­ing any agency or of­fi­cial from send­ing to, or re­ceiv­ing from, fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties “in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the ci­ti­zen­ship sta­tus, law­ful or un­law­ful, of any in­di­vid­ual.”

Also, the law bars any per­son or agency from re­strict­ing an­other gov­ern­ment en­tity from send­ing, re­quest­ing, re­ceiv­ing or main­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about any in­di­vid­ual’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus or ex­chang­ing such in­for­ma­tion with a gov­ern­ment en­tity.

We don’t know why Ab­bott con­cluded Travis County Sher­iff Sally Her­nan­dez isn’t en­forc­ing those pro­vi­sions.

He didn’t say, and an aide, Matt Hirsch, didn’t re­ply to our in­quiry.

But Ab­bott posted his tweet about three hours after a commentary piece by Her­nan­dez was posted by the Amer­i­can-States­man. In the commentary, Her­nan­dez, a Demo­crat elected in Novem­ber, de­fended her pol­icy of not au­to­mat­i­cally hon­or­ing ev­ery fed­eral re­quest to de­tain im­mi­grant in­mates for up to 48 hours — with the ex­cep­tion of in­mates charged with mur­der, ag­gra­vated sex­ual as­sault or hu­man traf­fick­ing or if agents ob­tained a court or­der or ar­rest war­rant.

Other in­mates, she said, would be al­lowed to post bail and be re­leased, no mat­ter their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

We asked Priddy, who over­sees the county’s cor­rec­tional com­plex, whether Her­nan­dez’s pol­icy re­stricts the flow of in­for­ma­tion about im­mi­grant in­mates as sug­gested by Ab­bott.

Priddy told us there’s been no change in the flow of each in­mate’s vi­tal in­for­ma­tion to other law en­force­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing ICE. Priddy said each sus­pect booked into the jail con­tin­ues to be fin­ger­printed and that in­for­ma­tion, along with the per­son’s name and date of birth, is con­veyed elec­tron­i­cally to the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety and then to fed­eral agen­cies, in­clud­ing ICE, whose of­fi­cers can de­ter­mine whether a sus­pect mer­its their at­ten­tion.

We no­ticed that sher­iff ’s pol­icy in­cludes this state­ment about the law that Ab­bott cited: “This pol­icy in no way pro­hibits or re­stricts send­ing in­for­ma­tion to or re­quest­ing or re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion from ICE re­gard­ing an in­di­vid­ual’s im­mi­gra­tion or ci­ti­zen­ship sta­tus, and noth­ing in this pol­icy shall be con­strued to pro­hibit or re­strict TCSO per­son­nel from ex­chang­ing in­for- ma­tion re­gard­ing the im­mi­gra­tion or ci­ti­zen­ship sta­tus of any in­di­vid­ual with ICE.”

We asked an ICE spokes­woman, Nina Pruneda, to eval­u­ate Ab­bott’s claim.

Pruneda sent us an agency state­ment that fo­cused more on the de­tainer pol­icy and not the law that Ab­bott cited. “ICE would wel­come any changes to cur­rent pol­icy that would al­low lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to more fully co­op­er­ate with ICE to­ward achiev­ing the shared goal of pro­tect­ing pub­lic safety and na­tional se­cu­rity while bal­anc­ing im­por­tant com­mu­nity polic­ing needs,” it said .“When law en­force­ment agen­cies fail to honor im­mi­gra­tion de­tain­ers and re­lease se­ri­ous crim­i­nal of­fend­ers onto the streets, it un­der­mines ICE’s abil­ity to pro­tect pub­lic safety and carry out its mis­sion.”

Our rul­ing

Ab­bott said Her­nan­dez re­fuses to en­force 8 USC 1373.

Given the sher­iff’s pol­icy against au­to­mat­i­cally grant­ing fed­eral re­quests to de­tain im­mi­grant-in­mates or us­ing per­son­nel to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws, we can see how some­one might spec­u­late about the sher­iff not en­forc­ing, or com­ply­ing with, the cited law about eas­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion about im­mi­gra­tion or ci­ti­zen­ship sta­tus.

But Ab­bott didn’t back up his claim, which also wasn’t ex­plic­itly borne out by ICE.

No­tably too, the sher­iff’s pol­icy, posted be­fore Ab­bott lev­eled his claim, spec­i­fied that it shouldn’t be read as slow­ing or stop­ping any in­for­ma­tion flow between sher­iff’s per­son­nel and ICE re­gard­ing the le­gal sta­tus of in­di­vid­u­als.

We rate this claim False.

The law bars any per­son or agency from re­strict­ing an­other gov­ern­ment en­tity from send­ing, re­quest­ing, re­ceiv­ing or main­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about any in­di­vid­ual’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus or ex­chang­ing such in­for­ma­tion with a gov­ern­ment en­tity.

GREG AB­BOTT State­ment: Says Travis County’s sher­iff re­fuses to en­force 8 USC 1373.

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