Tania Silva vs. SB 4

Mentally ill undocumented woman would not have been held on ICE detainer if not for anti-immigrant law

Tania Silva
Tania Silva (Courtesy of Workers Defense Project)

An ICE hold on mentally ill undocumented 21-year-old Tania Silva was lifted following public pressure from advocacy groups and politicians. Silva was arrested in July and charged with assault of a public servant after she allegedly became aggressive toward Austin police officers while undergoing a mental health crisis that included potential self-harm. When authorities booked her at the Travis County Jail under the second-degree felony charge, ICE placed a detainer on her. Silva, who suffers from schizophrenia, is now undergoing care at a local hospital, as her family requested from the start.

Silva's release was made possible through negotiations with the agency by her attorney Chito Vela, who refrained from offering specifics but did say that under the Trump administration, it's become increasingly difficult to lift ICE holds and prevent immigrants from facing detention. Public involvement and a push by local officials helped the outcome of this particular case. "This was a matter of making sure ICE is aware they can use their discretion to make a humanitarian decision when they are dealing with someone who is mentally ill," he said.

The case also serves as an example of the local impact of the state's anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4, which since last year has forced local jails to comply with all ICE detainers. Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez had previously limited ICE holds to certain violent crimes, and said this week that had SB 4 not become law, ICE's detainer request on Silva would have been declined: "I'm grateful that the ICE detainer request for Ms. Silva was dropped. I believe this effort by ICE, the Travis County D.A.'s Office, and the Travis County Sheriff's Office brought about a compassionate and proper outcome in the best interest of this young woman."

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More Tania Silva
Mentally Ill Undocumented Immigrant on ICE Hold
Mentally Ill Undocumented Immigrant on ICE Hold
Tania Silva arrested by APD on July 21

Mary Tuma, July 27, 2018

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Tania Silva, Senate Bill 4, Chito Vela, Sally Hernandez

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