Mackowiak Attacks the Sheriff

New Travis County GOP chairman quickly turns to low-hanging fruit

Just a few days into his tenure as chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, Matt Mackowiak steered the local GOP into a hot-button attack against Sheriff Sally Hernandez and Travis County's strategy regarding U.S. Immigra­tions and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Regurgitating misleading statements about Hernandez's policy, Mack­ow­iak submitted a public information request to the county on June 21 to learn the "consequences" of the ICE policies since they took effect Feb. 1. The Sheriff's Office has said it will automatically comply with ICE detainers for those charged with or convicted of capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault, or human trafficking, and also holds the discretion to honor other detainer requests on a "case-by-case basis."

Dubbing the sheriff "Sanctuary Sally," the GOP chair said Hernandez "is needlessly jeopardizing public safety in Travis County, and residents here want to know just how much damage she is doing." Among his five politically charged questions, Mackowiak asks how public safety has been affected by Hernan­dez's "decision to ignore the law" – an oft-repeated mistruth; the choice to prioritize ICE detainers for those charged with serious crimes is lawful and constitutional. Austin-based immigration attorney Faye Kolly lays out the legal facts: "Sheriff Hernandez's responsibility is to uphold state law, not federal immigration law. By enforcing state laws, Sheriff Hernandez is not 'ignoring the law,' rather she is doing the job she was elected to do." Kolly continued: "No sheriff has the authority to enforce the federal tax code; the same is true for federal immigration law."

Mackowiak also asks the sheriff to release a list of all "criminal alien" arrests, and to post that list to the TCSO website as former Sheriff Greg Hamilton did, a move that faced heavy criticism from the community.

The Sheriff's Office "believes they're not violating the law, but what's clear is that they're releasing criminal aliens back into the public," Mackowiak insisted after being asked by the Chronicle why he incorrectly referred to Hernandez's actions as illegal. Pressed on the reality that criminals aren't just released when an ICE detainer is not honored (they still go through the court system and face punishment), Mackowiak persisted, calling Hernandez's policies "extreme." He would later admit to the existence of an ongoing "disagreement" regarding whether or not an ICE detainer is a request or a legal mandate – to be clear, it's a voluntary request. "Detain­ers are merely a request, and there is no requirement that states and cities comply with them," said Kolly. "This is undisputed in federal regulation, by case law and by the U.S. Department of Justice's own interpretation."

Mackowiak's predecessor James Dickey, who was elected chairman of the state GOP on June 3, has taken the party's anti-immigrant rhetoric a step further by attempting to fundraise off the "sanctuary cities" debate. In a June 22 email, the Republican Party of Texas asks members to chip in at least $10 so they can "fight back against lawless liberals who want to bring sanctuary cities back to Texas." Nothing like making a buck off lies and fear.

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Matt Mackowiak, Sally Hernandez, Faye Kolly

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