(AUSTIN, Texas) — When Sheriff Greg Hamilton was running for reelection in 2012 and the heat was on over the issue of cooperating with ICE, he told voters we would end the program... if only he could.
Video of the entire debate is available here (http://www.ustream.tv/
In the video, a voter asked Sheriff Hamilton at the March 2012 Immigrant Services Network of Austin Sheriffs Candidates’ forum, “If the County Attorney or District Attorney were to confirm that honoring requests for ICE detainers were not mandatory, would you stop honoring these requests?”
The sheriff responds with a clear “yep.”
Two years later, it has become clear that the participation in the “Secure Communities” program is not mandatory. The sheriff has said so himself recently. In an April 2 press conference, the Sheriff told local reporters that he was aware of a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said compliance with ICE is not mandatory. When a reporter asked what the sheriff would do if the County Commissioners’ Court were to adopt “TRUST Act”-style policies in Travis County, the sheriff said he would defy the Court.
Meanwhile, an analysis released today from the the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University states “Secure Communities, a massive government surveillance program launched in 2008 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has failed to increase the removal of its primary announced targets: noncitizens who have committed crimes other than minor violations.”
TRAC's analysis is based on ICE records of 2.3 million deportations, covering the period from FY 2008 - FY 2013.
“Everyday that the Sheriff spends playing politics and doing photo-ops with ICE is a day that a family is separated in Travis County,” said Alejandro Caceres of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition. “And it’s another day that Travis County taxpayers are on the hook for the bill. It’s time for Sheriff Hamilton to do what he said he would when he was running for reelection, stop handing people over to ICE.”
Secure Communities allows fingerprints gathered by local law enforcement agencies to be automatically transmitted to ICE. ICE can then issue "detainers" requesting that local authorities voluntarily hold selected individuals for possible later deportation.