37 suspected undocumented immigrants released under Travis County Sheriff’s immigration policy

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Sheriff Hernandez's immigration policy went into effect Wednesday and 37 undocumented detainees were released into the public.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s new immigration policy went into effect Wednesday, 37 suspected undocumented immigrants were released, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The policy does not allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without warrants to ask the sheriff’s office to turn over suspected undocumented immigrants held in local jails. Federal agents can make detainer requests to ask local law enforcement if they can investigate and possibly deport
undocumented immigrants. 

On Wednesday, 37 suspected undocumented immigrants were on bail, but since ICE agents were removed from the jail because they were not allowed to investigate them without warrants, those inmates were released back into the public instead of directly into ICE custody, according to the Statesman.

According to the Statesman, 30 out of 196 detainer requests by ICE were honored Wednesday. The requests only ask her office to comply with them, so cooperation is voluntary, Hernandez said.

Hernandez’s policy will only honor requests not accompanied by warrants from a judge if the suspected undocumented immigrant has committed serious crimes, including murder, human trafficking or aggravated sexual assault, according to The Texas Tribune.

Hernandez promised on the campaign trail she would enact such a policy, and the day it went into effect, Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in Criminal Justice grants from the governor’s office for Travis County. Abbott has said he would remove elected officials, such as Hernandez, with such protective policies, according to the Tribune.

The grant funds criminal justice projects — such as victims of crime services, including casework, counseling and legal assistance — according to the Criminal Justice Division’s website. The grant also funds projects to prevent juvenile crime, such as counseling for mental health and afterschool programs.

On Friday, the Texas Senate’s State of Affairs Committee advanced Senate Bill 4, which would punish sanctuary cities that have policies to not allow cooperation with ICE. The bill was advanced 7-2 after 16 hours of hearing to be voted on by the Senate and then the House.

Under the bill, if sanctuary cities in Texas do not comply with federal immigration policies, the cities would be defunded and elected officials would be removed so that federal immigration can completely work with local law enforcement. The bill was heavily backed by Abbott, who made it an emergency item in his State of the State address Tuesday.