Pax­ton joins Dal­las County to fight in­mates’ law­suit over ICE de­tain­ers

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Chuck Lin­dell clin­dell@states­man.com

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.

RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

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