A cut in funds by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to punish sanctuary city policies in Austin was not targeted at the relevant department, according to a judge.
Earlier this year, Abbott’s office vowed to cancel $1.8 million in grants to law enforcement programs, and the University of Texas’s campus.
The cancellation of the grant was in response to Travis Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy of preventing deputies from asking anyone they arrested about their immigration status. Hernandez will not honor federal detainer requests in holding undocumented immigrants in Travis county jails after the completion of sentences for minor crimes, even if requested to by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
Both of these moves are seen as sanctuary city policies by the governor.
However, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, the county’s chief executive, said the money Abbott blocked does not fund immigration enforcement. She said the money is not immigration funds and none of it would have funded Hernandez’s department.
Abbott blocked money that would have financed drug diversion courts, DWI enforcement programs, and prostitution prevention according to a list Eckhardt tweeted.
An article in The Hill highlighted how Abbott sees Hernandez’s stance as being consistent with sanctuary cities.
Abbott pulled no punches in his response to the policies of the newly elected sheriff in Travis County.
Her so-called sanctuary city policies enraged the governor who threatened to slash state funding if Hernandez proceeded with policies intended to keep immigrant families together. In a letter to Hernandez, Abbott described the policy as shortsighted, dangerous, frivolous and reckless.
He has even threatened to remove elected officials who fail to comply with federal immigration laws, although the legality of this move has been questioned.
Sanctuary cities have also been targeted in the Texas legislature. However, there are signs the policy may backfire. In Harris County, the sheriff’s department has pulled out of a program that deputizes law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents.
Abbott’s aggressive stances comes as President Donald Trump threatens to pull federal funding from “sanctuary” cities and counties including Austin and San Francisco.
Federal retainers remain controversial. Last year, a judge in the Northern District of Illinois, invalidated detainer requests in a case that may have ramifications nationwide.
Three years ago, more than 100 local attorneys and academics signed a letter to Travis County officials warning their compliance with ICE detainers threatened to violate constitutional rights and open Travis County to potential legal liability.
Sanctuary cities and sanctuary city policies will continue to dominate political discourse over the next few months. If you or a family member is concerned about a detainer request or another aspect of immigration law, please call us today at (512) 474-4445.