About three hours from the Mexican border the city of Austin, Texas, a city with a large Hispanic population, has become one of the state’s staunchest sanctuary cities. The Texas governor, a Trump supporter, has held back state funds from Austin in an effort to pressure them into helping authorities with illegal immigration deportation.
Austin is one of the few holdouts in the State of Texas that refuses to comply with Trump’s order to aid officials in targeting illegal immigrants. Austin’s population is about one third Hispanic.
Sally Hernandez was elected Sherriff of Travis County, where Austin is located, in November. During the Democrat’s campaign she promised not to detain people based solely on their immigration status. Angered by her promise, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, made a promise of his own, and followed though by withholding a $1.5 million state grant that could have been used for criminal justice, veterans, drug addiction programs, struggling families and domestic violence. The governor also seeks a full list of funding for the city and threatens to withhold even more if Austin doesn’t fall into line.
Abbott said elected officials have a responsibility to follow the laws and not doing so is unacceptable. “Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they obey,” Abbott said, “to protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed.”
The governor called upon lawmakers to ban sanctuary cities in Texas. So, Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), drafted legislation that withholds state funding from cities, counties and colleges that refuse to comply.
Abbott has also threatened to remove Sheriff Hernandez, but for now, he feels holding back funding for services, which has worked in other Texas cities, will eventually work in Austin too. But so far, Austin is standing firm behind their values, and the city’s major, Steve Adler, also a Democrat, has vowed to support Hernandez and her decisions.
Adler doesn’t believe undocumented immigrants are posing a threat to the city. He also doesn’t believe in tearing families apart with deportations.
A Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, is also standing with the decision. She believes aggressive deportations would be bad for the state’s economy, especially in the fields of agriculture and construction that rely heavily upon immigrant labor.
For now, at least, the City of Austin, Texas will not detain people solely on the basis of their immigration status, except in the cases murder, sexual assault or human smuggling, Hernandez says she will not detain. She will hold those types of criminals for 48 hours to give customs officials time to take them into custody, she said. Hernandez will not hold people for minor infractions of the law just so they can be deported.
Other US cities have also refused to comply with the detention of non-threatening immigrants. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has called Trump’s orders an infringement on local control. Many cities in America feel the same way.
New York City has refused to detain immigrants in their precincts and jails at the government’s request since 2014. Michelle Mackler, director of legal initiative for New York, has said that by targeting all aliens, including green card and visa holders, Trump’s new orders are opening cities up to legal challenges.
From the Texas sheriff’s perspective, the aggressive immigration laws will accomplish little more than drive “people into the shadows.”