Travis re­fused most ICE re­quests

DHS re­port de­tails in­crease in re­fusals af­ter Her­nan­dez en­acted sanc­tu­ary pol­icy.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Philip Jankowski pjankowski@states­

Travis County on Mon­day was once again thrust into the spot­light of the state

and na­tional fight over so-called sanc­tu­ary cities af­ter a Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity re­port pointed to dozens of lo­cal in­mates sus­pected of liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally who, in de­fi­ance of fed­eral de­ten­tion re­quests, would not be re­leased from the county jail to im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

The re­port from U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment drew re­newed ire from Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who used it as a ral­ly­ing cry in an ef­fort to pass laws that would make poli­cies that limit coop-

er­a­tion with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties il­le­gal in Texas.

“The Travis County sher­iff’s de­ci­sion to deny ICE de­tainer re­quests and re­lease back into our com­mu­ni­ties crim­i­nals charged with heinous crimes — in­clud­ing sex­ual of­fenses against chil­dren, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and kid­nap­ping — is dan­ger­ous and should be crim­i­nal in it­self,” Ab­bott said.

“Texas will act to put an end to sanc­tu­ary poli­cies that put the lives of our cit­i­zens at risk,” Ab­bott said in the state­ment.

The DHS re­port showed that Travis County de­clined 142 ICE de­tain­ers to hold im­mi­grants sus­pected of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally. From the list, Travis County had by far the high­est num­ber of de­ten­tion re­quests re­fused in the week­long pe­riod from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, mak­ing up 69 per­cent of the 206 re­fusals marked na­tion­ally.

Travis County Sher­iff Sally Her­nan­dez de­clined to com­ment on the re­port Mon­day.

Its re­lease comes as a fed­eral judge on Mon­day ac­knowl­edged in open court that a re­cent ICE sweep in Travis County was ret­ri­bu­tion for Her­nan­dez’s re­cently en­acted sanc­tu­ary pol­icy.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump man­dated the re­port, ti­tled “De­clined De­tainer Out­come Re­port,” in a Jan. 25 ex­ec­u­tive or­der de­signed to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. The re­port is the first of the weekly up­dates from ICE that will show which lo­cal gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties are not com­ply­ing with im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion re­quests.

Travis County showed a high num­ber of re­fused de­ten­tion re­quests in part be­cause the re­port ex­am­ined op­er­a­tions dur­ing the first days of the sher­iff ’s of­fice’s new pol­icy lim­it­ing co­op­er­a­tion with ICE.

All other coun­ties listed in the DHS re­port showed fewer than 10 de­ten­tion re­quests re­fused by other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

When the sher­iff’s pol­icy be­gan, it un­did de­ten­tion re­quests on dozens of in­mates who had been in Travis County for months and would have been re­leased if not for ICE de­tain­ers. More than three dozen in­mates were re­leased within the first 24 hours of the pol­icy com­ing into ef­fect.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties re­sponded to the new pol­icy by fil­ing war­rants for the ar­rest of some 40 in­mates with the in­tent of forc­ing them to be re­leased into fed­eral cus­tody if they were set free from the county jail.

In re­sponse to the new pol­icy, Ab­bott has pub­licly vowed to “ham­mer” Travis County and any other lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tion re­fus­ing ICE de­tain­ers. Al­ready, the gov­er­nor has pulled $1.5 mil­lion in state grant fund­ing to crim­i­nal jus­tice pro­grams in Travis County such as for the Veter­ans Court and the Phoenix Court.

The DHS re­port also showed that Bas­trop and Wil­liamson coun­ties had re­fused three and four de­ten­tion re­quests, re­spec­tively. How­ever, the sher­iffs of those two coun­ties told the Amer­i­can-States­man that their coun­ties were er­ro­neously in­cluded.

Both Wil­liamson County Sher­iff Robert Chody and Bas­trop County Sher­iff Mau­rice Cook said the in­mates men­tioned in the re­port were ac­tu­ally Travis County in­mates who were ar­rested in Wil­liamson and Bas­trop coun­ties but were later trans­ferred else­where.

“Wil­liamson County has and al­ways will honor ICE de­tain­ers,” Chody said. “That has never changed and never will.”

Cook said the three in­mates in the re­port were trans­ferred to Travis County, where ICE de­tain­ers were re­fused. Chody could not con­firm that those in­mates were sent to Travis County.

“We were as­sured from the fed­eral sources that those records would be cor­rected,” Cook said.

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