Gov. Abbott says ‘sanctuary’ jail will cost Travis County sheriff her job

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at Convention of States legislation filing. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at Convention of States legislation filing. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is escalating a standoff with Austin’s sheriff over so-called “sanctuary cities” policies and now says he will seek new laws to remove her from office.

Abbott said Tuesday on “Fox and Friends” that Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez will lose her job unless she reverses plans to stop honoring all federal immigration detainers in her jail starting in February. The governor has already said he will immediately withhold state grant dollars.

“We’re going to crack down on this and ban sanctuary cities in Texas,” said Abbott in the Fox News interview.

Abbott doesn’t have the power to remove local officials. But Texas Republicans have filed multiple bills that would punish local governments for not arresting or detaining immigrants living in the country illegally.

On Monday, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to Sheriff Hernandez stating her actions are “frivolous” and “reckless.” In the governor’s letter, he rebuked the sheriff for her two reasons to not comply with ICE detainers. Sheriff Hernandez says her office will comply with ICE detainer requests when the suspect is charged with an egregious crime, such as capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, etc. Gov. Abbott says the sheriff has the legal authority to “honor ICE detainers for capital-murder cases as you do for other crimes that you personally deem unworthy of enforcement.”

In a statement released on Thursday morning, Sheriff Hernandez said she “will not allow fear and misinformation” to guide her principles.

I respect the job of our state leaders, but I will not allow fear and misinformation to be my guiding principles as a leader sworn to protect this community. I am following all state and federal laws, and upholding constitutional rights to due process for all in our criminal justice system. Our community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. I trust the court system and our judges to assess the risks and set appropriate bonds and conditions for all who are incarcerated. The voters, who elected state leaders and me, expect and deserve a collaborative effort to come up with solutions to this very complex issue. That is precisely what I’m committed to.”

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued a statement in support of Hernandez, stating Abbott is seeking to “punish communities” by withdrawing funding for programs that help women, children and veterans.

 

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