Texas governor threatens to withhold funding from 'sanctuary' communties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he will deny funding to counties that fail to comply with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers for illegal immigrants. 

Nathan Lambrecht/The Monitor/AP/File
Members of La Union Del Pueblo Entero protest Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's lawsuit against the deferred action immigration programs Sept. 16 before Governor Abbott arrived to talk with local Republican Party members at Cowboy Chicken in McAllen, Texas. Abbott visited the Rio Grande Valley to talks about recent meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his hope to improve security, infrastructure, and the economy along the Texas and Mexico border.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues to crack down on local governments offering any form of sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

On Wednesday, Governor Abbott said that local police departments that don’t cooperate fully with the United States immigration authorities could lose funding. The announcement comes in response to criticism that local governments are allowing and aiding illegal immigrants.

“Beginning now, all [criminal justice division] grant awards will require that sheriff’s departments fully honor [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention requests for criminal immigrants," Abbott wrote in a letter sent to all Texas County sheriffs. "Any applicant that cannot certify that their office will honor all ICE detainers for criminal immigrants will be ineligible for CJD funding."

Federal detainers request county jails to hold undocumented immigrants so federal authorities can take them into custody. Detainers are not required and can only be used to hold those with criminal records for no more than 48 hours past set release.

But now, Abbott’s announcement makes abiding by detainers practically mandatory – that is, unless sheriffs are willing to forego the grants that “provide counties with funding for a range of resources, including drug courts, juvenile justice programs and body cameras,” reports The Texas Tribune. This year alone, Abbott’s office has given out $4 million in grants, $78,000 of which has gone to Sheriff Lupe Valdez’s Dallas County.

Ms. Valdez has come under scrutiny lately after she stated she “would begin making case-by-case decisions on whether to honor federal detainers for inmates.” Abbott denounced this decision saying it would pose a “serious danger to Texans.”

Valdez maintains the Dallas County police department has not denied any ICE detainer requests this year, and in fact last week Valdez and Dallas County faced a lawsuit from 16 immigrants that alleged pretrial detention and claimed “Dallas County and the sheriff held immigrants far beyond 48 hours, and in some cases up to three months,” reported Dallas News.

Across the country, people are responding to Abbott’s announcement. Lawyer Chris Newman, who works with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Los Angeles told Dallas News, “It hardly makes sense to deprive law enforcement agencies of resources in order to make a political point about immigrants. But thankfully the US Constitution categorically prohibits the ‘arrest first, investigate later’ approach favored by the governor.”

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