Immigrant legal defense groups brace for tough slog ahead

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Travis County moves to cooperate less with the federal government, the state is trying to step in. On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office will change its policy on detainers, which is when the federal governments asks jails to keep people in custody who may have violated immigration law.

Sheriff Sally Hernandez says her office will only hold inmates who are charged with or have been convicted of more serious crimes like capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault, or continuous smuggling of people. People accused of other violent crimes will not receive an ICE detainer.

The day before the policy goes into effect, Governor Greg Abbott will give his State of the State address.

“We are working on laws that will – one – ban sanctuary cities, remove from office any office holder who promotes sanctuary cities, impose criminal penalties, as well as financial penalties,” Abbott said on FOX News last week.

In his address, Abbott will reveal his emergency items he wants to see passed quickly. One will likely be a ban on what he calls ‘sanctuary cities.’ On Thursday, the Senate’s State Affairs committee will start discussing Senate Bill 4, which tries to do just that.

In addition to state action, President Trump signed an executive order last week, threatening to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities. Now many undocumented immigrants in Central Texas are worried that they could be deported.

Along Manor Road in East Austin people at the Workers Defense Project are bracing for tough slog ahead. Virginia Badillo leads an information session here, telling the room of mostly undocumented immigrants that new proposals are coming. They ask her questions. She tells KXAN they’re asking her if local police can ask for their immigration status when pulling them over for a traffic violation.

Austin Police currently do not do that.

Badillo says it would bring a lot of work and a lot of challenges. She plans on going into the community to inform people on the changes and their rights.

Similar laws have been proposed several times in the past but they have never passed the Texas legislature.

 

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