ICE's Freezeout in Travis County

Gov. Abbott has threatened to cut off grant funding to the county

Sally Hernandez (Photo by John Anderson)

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez released her policy regarding the county's compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday, and hoo-boy, is Texas' Gov. Greg Abbott unhappy. On Monday, Abbott issued a firmly worded letter to the new sheriff, telling Hernandez her policy will allow "dangerous criminal aliens convicted of felonies" to be "turned loose into Travis County" in what Abbott's calling "a dangerous game of political Russian roulette." On Wednesday, he threatened to support legislation that would throw noncomplying sheriffs out of office. Hernandez's policy calls for noncompliance with ICE unless the federal immigrations agency has a court ordered warrant. See "Travis County Sheriff Won't Play Nice With ICE" for a full breakdown.

More important than the rhetoric is that Abbott is now threatening Travis County with the forfeiture of a $1.8 million criminal justice grant it typically receives from the state – one the governor has pledged to strip away from counties that won't adhere to his interpretation of federal immigration laws. (Hernandez's policy goes into effect throughout the county on Feb. 1.) County Judge Sarah Eckhardt quickly came to Hernandez's defense, saying in a statement that the governor must have "misplaced his knowledge of Texas Criminal Pro­cedure and U.S. Constitutional Law." She accused Abbott of "engaging in the politics of fear at the expense of our deepest held values." Hernandez has declined to comment on the policy since its posting on Friday.

UPDATED 11:23am: On Thursday (1/26) morning, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement from Sheriff Sally Hernandez:

"I respect the job of our state leaders, but I will not allow fear and misinformation to be my guiding principles as a leader sworn to protect this community. I am following all state and federal laws, and upholding constitutional rights to due process for all in our criminal justice system. Our community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. I trust the court system and our judges to assess the risks and set appropriate bonds and conditions for all who are incarcerated. The voters, who elected state leaders and me, expect and deserve a collaborative effort to come up with solutions to this very complex issue. That is precisely what I’m committed to."

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Sally Hernandez
New Program Aims to Boost Voter Registration at Travis County Jail
New Program Aims to Boost Voter Registration at Travis County Jail
Are county inmates aware that they’re eligible to vote?

Mary Tuma, Feb. 16, 2018

Hernandez to ICE Reversal Critics: “This Is Not Over”
Hernandez to ICE Reversal Critics: “This Is Not Over”
Sheriff incurs wrath after altering detainer policy

Mary Tuma, Oct. 20, 2017

More by Chase Hoffberger
The Reporting Life
The Reporting Life
Oh, the places you'll go

Sept. 3, 2021

Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Local journo Alex Hannaford’s Dead Man Talking podcast investigates the case against a man on death row

Nov. 16, 2018


Sally Hernandez, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Greg Abbott, Sarah Eckhardt

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle