Paxton joins Dallas County to fight inmates’ lawsuit over ICE detainers
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has moved to oppose a federal lawsuit that accuses the Dallas County sheriff of violating the rights of 23 people who had been detained for immigration agents.
Paxton said he wants to preserve the ability of county officials to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold an inmate so federal officials can verify immigration status.
The inmates sued two years ago, arguing that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez violated their rights by refusing to grant immediate release on bond and by detaining them based on immigration holds after they were otherwise eligible for release.
U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled in January that the lawsuit could go forward to determine whether Valdez violated the inmates’ civil rights by complying with the requests, commonly known as “detainers.”
In a court filing late Wednesday, Paxton asked the judge to allow Texas to join the lawsuit to protect “the ongoing cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement.”
“Governments throughout Texas have a duty under Texas law, and cooperative agreements with the federal government, to hold undocumented and suspected criminal aliens pursuant to ICE detainers,” Paxton said in a statement. “This is a public safety issue. If a Texas sheriff cannot lawfully honor an ICE detainer dangerous people may slip through the cracks of the justice system and back into the community.”
A similar issue has played out in Travis County, where recently elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez said she only will hold inmates for federal agents if they have been charged with murder, capital murder, aggravated sexual assault or continuous human smuggling.
Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the policy by cutting $1.5 million in state grants to the county. State lawmakers also filed bills that would require Texas sheriffs and county officials to comply with ICE or risk civil penalties and criminal charges.
Inmates allege Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (left) violated their rights by detaining them based on immigration holds after they were otherwise eligible for release.