Texas Gov. Abbott threatens counties that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents

October 27, 2015

Travis County and the City of Austin recently amended their jail agreement to say it should reflect local values and the immigrant community

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter early this week to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who has limited her department’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying her policy “leaves the State no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans.”

Recently officials in Austin and Travis County have taken steps to end cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Travis County Jail, in response to years-long outcry in Travis County over deportations here.

“Ending our collaboration with ICE is our only next sensible step in the county, we cannot continue to say that we are an immigrant-friendly county while still allowing our jails to be the first step to separation for some of our residents,” said Alejandro Caceres, ICE Out of Austin campaign manager. “I think you know you’re doing the right thing on immigration when Gov. Abbott disagrees with you.”

Last week in Travis County, Commissioners agreed to an amendment from the City of Austin stating that the two local governments valued the immigrant community. City Councilmembers and County Commissioners made it clear what the intent of the amendment was: to take a stand against the policy of cooperating with ICE at the Travis County Jail.

“Travis County and Austin should do what’s best for our community, not what’s best for the Governor’s political ambitions,” said Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “We would join 300 cities and counties that have limited their cooperation with ICE.  We hope every candidate for sheriff in our county will promise to end cooperation with ICE and go even further than Sheriff Valdez.”

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Commissioner Brigid Shea both said they would support the City of Austin if it decided to find a way to end the collaboration with immigration and with local law enforcement, even if it meant Travis County leasing the central booking center to the City. Last year the City of Austin began to investigate how the police department could take control of the processing center from the Travis County Sheriff’s department so that they could end collaboration with immigration.  

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said during an October 20 Commissioners Court that she would support the city’s decision to take over booking at the jail if the cooperation with ICE is not ended,  “I do support this language that the city council has asked to include in the document, and I also support the idea of metro government in all of its forms in both collaboration and also in competition so that when we engage in metro government and you have cities and counties working together on something like central booking or emergency medical services or health and human services, when the provider government is not doing what the purchaser government would prefer, the purchaser government is free to go do something else.”

“Greg Abbott continues to prove to be wrong on immigration. From his DAPA/DACA lawsuit to this letter to the Dallas Sheriff,” said Alejandro Caceres. “Abbott has shown that he is not interested in what’s best for Texas by attacking the immigrant community for political gain. We hope that Travis County and the City of Austin will continue to do is best for it’s local community and last week's vote on interlocal agreement was a great first step.”

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.

Contact: 

Contact: Alejandro Caceres, acaceres@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111