Travis County Jail at election-year crossroads on immigration policy

October 30, 2016
Austin American-Statesman

The era of full cooperation with federal immigration authorities at the Travis County Jail is poised to come to an end in January with the likely election of Constable Sally Hernandez, the Democratic candidate for sheriff who has said she won’t honor all requests to turn over undocumented immigrants.

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“This is years in the making,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership. “If whoever the sheriff is adopts a policy like many of these other communities around the country that limits ICE’s ability, that is a good thing for immigrants, and it is a good thing for public safety.”

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Lower-level crimes that result in detainers continue to worry immigrant advocates. Libal said ICE programs can still break up families and exacerbate the challenges immigrant families already face.

“It breeds distrust and makes them reluctant to report crimes,” he said. “If someone serves their time and is rehabilitated, why deport them?”

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