People have been saying for years that there is a deportation crisis in Travis County, Texas, fueled by the federal S-Comm (Secure Communities) program in the jail.
New data released Tuesday shows just how bad things have gotten. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, over the last two years ICE and Sheriff Greg Hamilton have been particularly busy rounding up Austin-area residents.
From 2013-2014, ICE placed a total of 5,507 “holds” on individuals in Travis County Jail. A hold is a request from the federal government that the jail “hold” someone for two extra days so that ICE can come investigate. The cause for ICE’s investigation can be very flimsy. For example, if they don’t have the fingerprints on record and the individual just happens to have a Hispanic last name. It’s no small wonder they have issued thousands of holds here.
Looking more closely at the data, we see something else. A large majority of the individuals Travis County holds for ICE, 73% of them, have no criminal record at all.
The consequences of S-Comm are far-reaching. Barbara Hines of the University of Texas-Austin Immigration Law Clinic had this to say in a recent editorial:
“Compliance with the ICE detainer system is a destructive policy for our community for many reasons. While ICE touts Secure Communities as a tool to target immigrants with serious criminal histories for deportation, the evidence starkly contradicts this claim. These detainers do not differentiate between those accused or convicted of serious crimes and those arrested, for example, for traffic infractions, lack of driver’s license (which is not available to immigrants in irregular status), or unpaid tickets. The detainer process is a primary reason for the recent skyrocketing increase in deportations.”
Sheriff Greg Hamilton must remember that he is in the business of keeping the streets safe, not defending a destructive federal program and putting Travis County on the hook for the hefty bill which costs taxpayers millions every year.
Compliance with S-Comm in a place that purports to be the most progressive in Texas is why Austin and Travis County are entered into this week’s Humpday Hall of Shame.