Council passes measure opposing Travis County’s immigration policies

Resolution centers on Travis County's participation in ICE Detainer program

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council will approved a resolution Thursday that opposes the use of Travis County resources for implementation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement programs and asking the sheriff to quit complying with ICE detainers.

The resolution takes aim at the county’s compliance with the Secure Communities program. Under the program, also known as S-Comm, fingerprints of everyone arrested are run through a database to check if someone is wanted by another state or even the federal government. S-Comm will alert officers when an arrestee has an immigration hold. ICE then asks Travis County to detain the arrestee until he or she can be handed over to immigration authorities.

Alejandro Caceres is the executive director of Austin Immigrants Rights Coalition. The group organized a protest at the Travis County Jail back in February. They helped write the resolution, hoping to stop deportations in Travis County.

“The local police department and the local sheriff’s department aren’t immigration, and when they act like immigration, it causes a distrust,” said Caceres.

Following the protests, Sheriff Greg Hamilton told us he would continue to honor the ICE program, saying ignoring it could risk public safety.

“These individuals, whether they’re legal citizens here or not, just because they go to jail on a misdemeanor charge this time doesn’t mean they don’t have a history,” Sheriff Hamilton said.

Caceres says other counties throughout the U.S. are no longer using the Secure Communities program.

“So, we’re really hoping that the options the city manager will explore will push the sheriff of opting out of this program,” Ceceres said.

A draft of Thursday’s resolution argues that ICE detainers cost the county money saying,

“Broad compliance with all ICE detainers is a significant expense for Travis County taxpayers because ICE is not required to reimburse counties for all of the costs of continued custody, which in Travis County reaches $105.16 a day per detainee and in most cases, ICE provides very little reimbursement, leaving the County responsible for significant expenses resulting from ICE detainer compliance;”

The resolution on the council’s agenda also asks the City Manager to research other options to “minimize or replace” Austin’s use of the Travis County Central Booking Facility.

The draft goes on to say the ICE detainers result in an average of 19 deportations a week and of those in the last two years, 73 percent of deportees were not convicted of any crimes.

In 2010, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that participation in the ICE detainer program is voluntary, something the resolution argues Travis County participation could be opening the county government up to lawsuits.

Draft Resolution

The City Council opposes the use of Travis County resources, including efforts by County staff and taxpayer dollars, for the implementation of ICE’s S-Comm program.
The City Council urges the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to stop complying with ICE detainers and holding people in its jail for ICE to assume custody.
The City Council directs the City Manager to research options to minimize or completely replace the City of Austin’s use of the Travis County Central Booking Facility, until such time that Travis County’s participation in the S-Comm program has been terminated, and to report back to the Public Health and Human Services Council Committee and the Joint Public Safety Working Group prior to reporting back to the Council within 90 days.
The City Council directs the City Manager to send a copy of this resolution to the Travis County Judge, Commissioners and Sheriff.

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