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Abbott Wants to ICE Sheriffs over Sanctuary Cities

Do sheriffs have to comply with sanctuary city regulations?

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Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In his state of the state address to the Legislature this week, Governor Greg Abbott said some law enforcement officials were refusing to “enforce existing law.” “That is unacceptable,” he continued. “Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they obey.” That was almost certainly a thinly-veiled jab at Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has recently faced of with the governor over sanctuary cities. On Wednesday, Abbott cancelled about $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to Travis County because of what he describes as Hernandez’s sanctuary city policy, which limits the release of undocumented inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, only in cases of murder, aggravated sexual assault, or human smuggling.

The ultimate rub, however, is that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers given to local sheriffs are completely voluntary in compliance. Why? If the detainers were mandatory, they would violate Tenth Amendment separation of powers between the federal government and the states. In short, a system that should be simple and straight forward is a confusing mess.

The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee is taking up Senate Bill 4 on Thursday, which would force local law enforcement into greater cooperation with the federal immigration officials by withholding state dollars if they don’t. The flip side is that sheriffs who comply may face lawsuits under the Fourth Amendment for the warrantless detention of an individual. And all of this is happening just after President Donald Trump issued an executive order undoing the ICE policies of former President Obama last week.

Under Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program that existed two weeks ago, ICE only targeted “individuals convicted of significant criminal offenses or who otherwise pose a threat to public safety” and “will only seek transfer of individuals in state and local custody in specific, limited circumstances.” That policy also only applied to persons accused of most misdemeanors once they were convicted. Trump’s order wiped that out and replaced it with the Secure Communities program that existed before 2012. Under this policy, ICE can place request holds on individuals in jail even when they are “not yet convicted.”

Trump declared that any local government that did not comply could face having its federal funds withheld. San Francisco, which actually has designated itself as a sanctuary city, filed a federal lawsuit claiming it stood to lose $1.2 billion a year in federal aid, and that Trump’s order violated the Tenth Amendment by trying to use state officials to enforce federal law.

A federal judge in Chicago last fall ruled that the detainers exceeded ICE’s authority for warrantless arrests under federal immigration laws. At present, the ruling only affects the Northern District of Illinois, but attorney Mark Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center said the premise may soon affect other jurisdictions, such as Texas. If the courts rule the detainers are an unconstitutional warrantless arrest, the federal government might lose its ability to use federal grant money as a carrot for local governments to comply with immigration laws. “It may be difficult to withhold money for something that is unconstitutional,” Fleming said.

In fact, the ICE detainer form notes explicitly that compliance by the local law enforcement office is a request and not an order. And it tells the detained person that if they that if they have not been picked up by an ICE agent in that time they should “ inquire about your release from state or local custody.”

In practice, the ICE detainers do not apply to the most serious criminals, because the state is not going to hand them over for deportation until they have served time for their crimes. Texas prisons, as of December 31, housed 8,923 inmates with ICE detainers on them, with 6,688 positively identified as undocumented immigrants, according to Jason Clark, director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Some studies also have found indications that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes than people who are native-born citizens. The American Immigration Council found in 2010 Census data that only 1.6 percent of the immigrant males between the ages of 18-29 were incarcerated, while 3.9 percent of the native-born population in that age group were incarcerated. An anecdotal review of the ICE detainers at the Travis County sheriff’s website indicates most of the inmates are being held on crimes such as driving while intoxicated or domestic violence.

However, Abbott launched into the Dallas sheriff in October when she announced the county would no longer automatically honor the 48-hour hold on immigrant charged with minor offenses but would review them on a “case by case” basis.  “Your refusal to fully participate in a federal law enforcement program intended to keep dangerous criminals off the streets leaves the state no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans,” Abbott said in a letter to Valdez.

Valdez spokesperson Melinda Urbina told me that the policy was in keeping with the ICE enforcement that was in effect at the time. “It was taken out of context and misunderstood” by the governor, Urbina said. She said the governor overlooked the fact the sheriff had complied with 1,778 detainers in 2015 and 2,527 in 2016. Urbina said the sheriff is trying to determine exactly how to handle the detainers under Trump. “We’re in a big state of hypothetical right now,” she said.

But the county also is facing a lawsuit from immigrants who claim the detainers were abused by Dallas as an excuse to keep them jailed while awaiting trial, rather than freeing them on bond. “There were some guys who were there for weeks, months,” said Anthony Garza, a lawyer representing the offenders.

When I asked Garza if Dallas was a sanctuary city, he replied, “I would have a hard time saying yes.”

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  • roadgeek

    This is low-hanging fruit, and an easy home run for Abbott and the GOP. While I commend his newly-discovered zeal concerning this issue, nothing is being said about mandatory E-Verify, which would go a long way to quelling the attraction of Texas to illegals. Mandatory E-Verify, you see, would be hard. It would displease rich GOP donors, like the Butt family, and Straus would never let it go forward. So while I think this action is commendable, I also see some hypocrisy here as well, and feel bound to call it out.

    • SpiritofPearl

      Ain’t gonna happen. Oligarchs love them some illegals.

      • donuthin2

        And that is my guess as why the Trumpster is building a wall. It pleases a part of his rabid constituency for protecting the border and makes the other part of his constituency happy because they know it will unlikely work and they will still have their illegals for doing the hard manual labor. Works for everybody except us taxpayers.

        • SpiritofPearl

          There will be no wall. You can take that to the bank.

          • WUSRPH

            If Trump keeps going out of his way to attack and piss of friendly allies they may get together and build a wall, at least figuratively, all around us to keep him from bothering them.

        • José

          Wait ’till you see his wall for keeping out our new enemies, the Aussies.

  • José

    Let me get this straight. Guv Greg says that Sheriff Sally must enforce all laws, even those outside of her legal purview, no ifs ands or buts. So the next time that the Guv runs afoul of the US Constitution—and like any good Republican in Texas state politics, he will—then she has to drag him down to the Travis County Hoosegow? Maybe the esteemed Governor didn’t think this one through.

    • WUSRPH

      Nah, the law he is pushing applies only to local government officials. People at Abbott’s level will be free to continue on their way with no fear……What we have here is not a case of “an overreaching federal government” which Abbott hates so much but an “overreaching political hack named Abbott”.

      • José

        Now don’t tell me that Guv Greg is a THIRD rate political hack.

        • WUSRPH

          Not sure of his ranking…..He is still working on it.

        • BCinBCS

          I see what you did there. 😉

  • John Bernard Books

    This is hysterical
    “White House aide Kellyanne Conway said we were seeing the Democratic Party “unravel in front of our eyes” because of what she called “a bunch of crybabies.””
    http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/02/02/conway-were-seeing-hysterical-democratic-party-unravel-in-front-of-our-eyes/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

    • roadgeek

      Can’t argue with her at all. If they want those rust belt voters back, this isn’t the way to go about it. And the riot at Berkeley didn’t impress anyone in the heartland either.

      • St. Anger

        Who rioted?

        • roadgeek

          Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to give a speech last night; he was sponsored by some student group. A mixture of Berkeley students, outside protesters and just plain thugs decided this wasn’t appropriate. They rioted. Set fires to both cars and buildings. Injuries. Attempted to storm the building where he was to speak, but turned back by police. Speech was canceled. The affair was ironic, although the irony was probably lost on the protesters, that Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech movement more than 50 years ago. We still have free speech in this country, but only to a limited degree, and only as far as people on the left decide you can exercise your free speech. There were no Republicans or members of the Tea Party rioting in Oakland last night. The Democrats and the rest of the radical left own this one. Utterly and completely.

          • roadgeek

            President Trump tweeted this AM that perhaps some federal money should be cut until Berkeley learns that free speech is for everyone.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Trump is befuddled and so are you. He simply doesn’t have that power.

            Where were you when bubbas were attacking black and Muslim Americans?

          • WUSRPH

            I guess I am kind of unusual in this regard but I happen to think that the First Amendment–Freedom of speech, the press, religion and the right of assembly—is the most important of all the American documents and doctrines. I won’t not have gone to hear him speak, nor would I have approver of him being invited….but once invited he should have been allowed to speak. A&M handled a similar situation much better just a while ago. It is sad that the folks at Berkley—many of whom were probably not students—didn’t follow the Aggie’s example.

          • roadgeek

            I wouldn’t have gone to hear him either. I can’t even pronounce his name. He seems to have a Madonna-like gift for self-promotion. He is gay, and conservative, although not in the way many other conservatives seem to be. He likes to push buttons, and he’s good at it. That’s about all I know about him. But, yes, he should have been allowed to speak.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Wasn’t that Richard Spencer, not Milo?

          • roadgeek

            Does it matter?

          • SpiritofPearl

            Yeah. Spencer wasn’t kicked off Twitter for harassing Leslie Jones.

          • SpiritofPearl

            Someone needs to cut federal money from Trump’s Twitter account.

          • St. Anger

            No. I know about the protest, and I know about the riot. But I don’t know WHO the rioters were, and last I looked, neither did The NY Times. I don’t think you do, either.

            You say it was a “mixture of …” Do you have any evidence for that claim?

            Do I have my nazis mixed up, or didn’t this same guy try to pay off people to riot during the inauguration, in order to make the protesters look bad? Considering that recent history, I might wait for some identification of suspects before I assume who they were.

            Having said that, there will be a lot worse than that before this is over.

          • roadgeek

            “….Having said that, there will be a lot worse than that before this is over….”

            I hope not. I doubt you understand what you’re referencing. The SJW’s who live in the urban areas need to understand that they’re out-manned, out-gunned and out-organized, and that their food comes from areas controlled by conservatives. I hope and pray they don’t have to learn these lessons the hard way, because such an education would cleave the country in two. Wasn’t once enough?

          • SpiritofPearl

            This is a very preposterous statement. Do you and the other deplorables plan to starve or murder citizens who disagree with them? Where do you get this poppycock? From Breitbart and other RWNJ?

            I remember the sixties quite vividly. JFK, MLK, and RFK assassinations, riots in most cities up north with tanks rolling through the streets, inner cities smoldering, riots between students and the Chicago police, universities shutting down. Mr. P. and I were innocently driving through downtown Detroit the morning the riot there erupted and saw nothing. The next morning a Detroit friend told me a cloud hung over the city like Hiroshima.

            Tin drummers and Nixon coming,
            We’re finally on our own,
            This summer I heard the drumming,
            Four dead in Ohio.

            —- Neal Young

          • BCinBCS

            And don’t forget Jackson State.

            (This country really went through a lot when we were young adults, didn’t it?)

          • SpiritofPearl

            It certainly did, Mr. B. It seems the Trumpheads have forgotten all that. We will not “shut up.”

          • SpiritofPearl

            We had just moved to Indianapolis the year before Kent State. When the universities in Indiana were closed in April, a group of students from the University of Notre Dame started a summer tutoring program for inner city kids to help them maintain their skills during the vacation. I volunteered to tutor fourth-grade girls two times a week after work. Those little girls were the ones who named me “Pearl.”

          • SpiritofPearl

            How do you know they were “thugs”?

            There were plenty of Tea Partiers rioting in 2010. Do your homework.

        • roadgeek
          • SpiritofPearl

            The word “thug” is used nowhere in this article. Breitbart or AmRen talking?

          • SpiritofPearl

            Saw Der Fuhrer’s tweet. “Thugs” are mentioned, but the NYT would never use such loaded language.

      • SpiritofPearl

        Your “riot,” “free speech” to others.

        • roadgeek

          So. You do understand that this Milo fellow wasn’t allowed to exercise his free speech rights? Do you see setting fires and vandalizing buildings as free speech?

          • SpiritofPearl

            You seem to have ignored Trump’s offer to the legal fees of anyone who beat up protesters at his rallies.

            I would not personallyengage in violent protest, but I can understand the impetus of the SDS: “Blow it up! Shut it down!” Expect to see lots more of this . ..

          • roadgeek

            This is bad stuff. This is 1859 all over again. Is that what you want? Another civil war?

          • WUSRPH

            Unfortunately people not honoring other people’s rights is not a new development….It has been with us from the beginning of the Republic….but it was particularly common in the period before the Civil War when people opposed to the abolition of slavery movement would beat up newspaper editors and destroy the presses of those who said anything good about anti-slavery efforts.

          • roadgeek

            Well, it needs to stop. Speech should always be allowed and respected, if not agreed with. I recall the Nazis marching in Skokie, and there weren’t riots. They had their march, they made a little speech and they went away. Life went on. Why can’t this Milo person do the same thing?

          • WUSRPH

            But you may have forgotten that it took a lawsuit by the ACLU to get the Nazis permission to march in Skokie—-the city had denied it on the grounds that it might lead to a riot….It was many months between the filing for a permit to march and when they finally got it thanks to the courts. And, when they did march, there was a massive protest.

          • roadgeek

            Seen on the Internet: “I may not like what you say, so I’ll burn down the place you were going to say it.”

          • SpiritofPearl

            Said in the Bill of Rights: ” Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . .”

            That means the appalling Milo can say what he wishes without GOVERNMENT interference or punishment. It DOES NOT mean that he can say whatever he wants and expect the opposition not to respond. You anti-PC guys have reaped what you have sown,

            I disagree with the violence, but not just anger fron which it springs.

          • John Bernard Books

            bozo was banned from TM for wanting to deny others their right to free speech here…..

          • roadgeek

            Yes, it appears to be a liberal hallmark. Blather about “tolerance” and “diversity”, until they don’t like something, then they riot.

          • SpiritofPearl

            I thought you were smarter than Booksie . . .

          • SpiritofPearl
  • SpiritofPearl
  • WUSRPH

    It is just a little humorous that San Francisco is using the 10th Amendment as a defense against Trump’s anti-sanctuary city policy. It would be more than beautiful if they won based on the SCOTUS rulings that Abbott loves so much that say that the federal government may not force states and the locals to enforce its laws. Right-wingers try to hide behind those rulings with “non-cooperation” bills every session…..It would serve them right to have the same arguments blew up in the face of people like Abbott.

  • John Bernard Books

    Dems are liars cheats and crooks of course they deny voter fraud exists….
    “The investigators didn’t go to great lengths to hide their attempted fraudulent votes. In five instances investigators in their 20s or 30s posed as voters age 82 to 94. In some cases the investigators were of different ethnic backgrounds from the voters they were impersonating. Yet each was given a ballot and allowed to cast a vote without question.”
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/voter-fraud-a-myth-thats-not-what-new-york-investigators-found-1485994200

    Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas in over 20 years and cannot win anywhere w/o cheating. Anyone who believes otherwise is stupid or a lying to themselves, which of course is stupid.

    • Kimberly Johnson

      You realize the WSJ source you linked is an opinion piece, right?

      • SpiritofPearl

        No. He is off the rails most of the time.

  • SpiritofPearl

    For those of you who want to help the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre:

    https://www.bowlinggreenmassacrefund.com/

  • WUSRPH

    Yesterday’s Texas Senate hearing on the sanctuary cities bill was proof that some legislators aren’t kidding when they say “the only thing wrong with a public hearing is that you have to listen to the public”….Why they even bother when the votes are committed before the hearing is beyond me.

  • Jay Trainor

    Abbott going after sanctuary cities is a political stunt meant to burnish his reputation among hard liners to garner their financial support for his upcoming reelection bid. Abbott would rather divert us from his many mismanagement scandals with tough guy, “I’ll show you” antics.

    Diversions and distractions have always been an effective technique in Texas politics, keeping the voters from asking about; why Texas public schools receive less money today (per pupil) than ten years ago, why severely disabled poor kids ages 1-3 are being cut off of critical care therapy, why so many kids are dying while under Texas’ the foster care system, why Governors Perry and Abbott have put an arbitrary ceiling of having no more than 8% of students participating in special ed. (the lowest % in the nation), why does Texas have the bulk of the nation’s uninsured, etc..

    We can and must do better in 2018 by electing a governor who represents the needs of all Texans.instead of pursuing personal political ambition. The one thing people like Abbott will never have enough of – is enough.

    • Fantasy Maker

      Are we a nation of laws or not?

  • enp1955

    So the governor that cries fowl every time the feds try do force something on him is turning around and doing exactly that – forcing elected officials that do not report to him in any way to do his and the fed’s bidding. Hypocrisy abounds…

  • Fantasy Maker

    Good job Governor! it is high time these arrogant, rogue sheriffs do their job and uphold the oath of office they took which is to deport ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS!
    When you have law enforcement picking and choosing which laws they will enforce, how soon before every citizen does the same thing??