Although top politicians in Texas have long been vocal about their efforts to crack down on undocumented immigration, things could not be more different in Travis County, specifically its county seat Austin, which has declined more immigration holds than any other county in the United States.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), counties across 16 states, Texas included, combined to reject 206 detainer requests between January 28 and February 3, as were revealed in the DHS’s Declined Detainer Outcome Report.
But more surprising is that Travis County accounted for more than two-thirds (142) of all declined detainers.
What is an ICE Detainer?
An ICE detainer hold is a request to local and state police agencies to keep an undocumented immigrant in jail after being charged with a criminal offense, until such time that an ICE agent can pick that person up and initiate deportation proceedings.
This DHS report, the first of its kind, had been requested as part of President Donald Trump’s January 25 executive order: “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” Many see it as the administration’s opening salvo on so-called sanctuary cities, calling out counties and cities that refuse to cooperate with the feds in deporting “dangerous” immigrants.
ICE Pushing for Increased Public Safety
“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” said Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE.
Homan said ICE’s goal was to build “cooperative” relationships with local law enforcement agencies in an effort to “ensure that illegal aliens who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the streets to potentially harm individuals living within our communities.”
Critics of the Trump administration’s immigration policies point out that ICE’s goal isn’t so much to protect the public from dangerous immigrants and criminals, but rather to deport anyone and everyone who entered the United States through undocumented channels.
This includes law-abiding parents of children who entered the country without documentation but have since received permanent resident status and full citizenship, as well as minors who entered the country without papers who later applied for renewable work permits under former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In Austin and Travis County, rejections of detainer holds come after newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez enacted sanctuary city policy. Travis County, however, still accepts detainer holds backed by a court order, as well as detainers for individuals charged or convicted of serious crimes like capital murder, first-degree murder, and aggravated sexual assault among others.
If you or a loved one needs to know more about sanctuary city policy in Austin, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to learn more from immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.