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.”
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.