AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott has announced he is cutting $1.5 million in grants on the same day Travis County’s newly-elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez said she’s making good on a campaign promise to limit cooperation with federal immigration agents.
Hernandez’ new detention policy for detaining undocumented illegal immigrants is starting on Wednesday at the Travis County Jail. However, the move is now costing the county money. Travis County receives $1.8 million in Criminal Justice Division grant money every year and $300,000 has already been handed out as of this fiscal year. The rest of the grant money has now been cancelled by the governor’s office.
Abbot’s funding cut could impact Travis County programs, like Veterans’ Court, Child Protective Services and Juvenile Probation. However, some county leaders believe Abbott’s plan is going to backfire, especially on state programs.
According to Hernandez, her office will comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests when the suspect is charged with an egregious crime, such as capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, etc. Abbott previously told Fox News that Hernandez would lose her job if she doesn’t reverse plans to stop honoring all federal immigration detainers in her jail.
In his State of the State speech on Tuesday, Gov. Abbott promised to strip funding from state governments that refuse to comply with an executive order from President Donald Trump. That order forces local law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants for ICE agents.
“Some law enforcement officials in Texas are openly refusing to enforce existing law,” said Abbott. “That is unacceptable.”
“We operate the courts on behalf of the state and so when the state threatens to remove our funding, they are actually removing funding from their own programs,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. “Sheriff Hernandez’s policy is absolutely within the law of the land.”
Break-down of Where the Money Goes
|Civil Courts||Parenting in Recovery Family Drug Treatment Court||$145,456.16|
|County Attorney||Family Violence Accelerated Prosecution Program||$89,522.57|
|County Attorney||Family Violence Accelerated Victim Outreach Program||$234,043.90|
|Criminal Courts||Veterans Court Program||$193,930|
|Criminal Justice Plan||Prostitute Prevention Program||$214,357|
|CSCD||Travis County Adult Probation DWI Court||$259,284|
|Emergency Services||Travis County SPD 2000 Replacement||$30,900|
|Juvenile Probation||Streamlining Assessment Practices to Improve Youth Substance||$44,105.42|
|Juvenile Probation||Trauma Specific Treatment for Juveniles||$58,937|
|Juvenile Probation||Enhancing Services for Victims of Crime||$149,135.22|
|Juvenile Probation||Leadership Academy||$183,817.50|
|Juvenile Probation||Tiger Enrichment Program||$67,869.91|
|Pretrial||Drug Diversion Court||$147,488.36|
The Veterans Court program will lose almost $194,000 under the cuts. The court helps defendants suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury and other mental health disorders that resulted from experiences during combat. It then links those veterans who have misdemeanors and felonies to services in the community and monitor their progress.
“It’s a way to deal with the PTSD they got while they were serving us, so it’s a chance for us to give back to all those young veterans that went out when we asked them to,” said Travis County District Court Judge Mike Denton.
The program helping parents who suffer from substance abuse and are in the child welfare system is also getting hit. The Parenting in Recovery, Family Drug Treatment Court is losing more than $145,000. The court works to keep the children out of foster care and stay with their families while CPS is involved.
One of the judges told KXAN the grant money was used to pay for a drug court coordinator. She says, without her, the program’s future is in jeopardy.
“I’m just so confused at what the real intention is because I hear our governor talking about wanting to help the CPS system. I hear him talking about wanting to help the children in our community but now we’ve had this issue come up and it’s directly hurting the kids that we are working with in CPS foster care,” said Travis County Civil District Courts Judge Aurora Martinez Jones.
Response from Local Lawmakers
“Today, Sheriff Hernandez’s lawful and sound immigration policy goes into effect. Instead of keeping immigrants in jails without warrants to deport them, the new Sheriff is working on protecting all people in Travis County from crime. That’s a big victory for constitutional rights and public safety in our community,” said Austin Council Member Greg Casar.
It’s a battle of the blame game.
Some lawmakers say it’s not the governor who withheld these funds, but rather Sheriff Hernandez’s actions that did.
“If we are very clear in our attempts and definition as to what those consequences look like as a state, and you have elected officials and jurisdictions that choose to go down that road it is their decisions that will have that money removed, not the state,” said State Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock.
Judge Eckhardt disagrees, calling the governor’s actions “retribution.” Eckhardt says none of the grant money comes from or is administered by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Now, she’s urging Abbott to rethink funding these critical county needs.
“We do the state’s business. When the state cuts off our ability to do its business, it’s cutting off it’s ability to govern,” Eckhardt said.