(AUSTIN, Texas) — Last night, the Austin City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling for an end to Travis County’s participation in the federal Secure Communities (S-Comm) program that has resulted in the deportation of almost 5,000 people from the county.
In addition to formally opposing S-Comm and calling on the Sheriff to change his policy, the resolution directs the city manager to research ways to minimize or replace the use of the county booking facility until S-Comm participation ends. A report from the city manager is due in 90 days.
This puts intense pressure on Travis County to end the program. Through what’s called an inter-local agreement, the City of Austin pays Travis County for the costs of operating the jail. This makes the City of Austin the largest “customer” of the Travis County Jail.
It’s unclear if the Travis County Jail could operate without those funds. The sheriff may now have to choose between losing City of Austin funding for the jail or ending S-Comm.
“The choice should be clear,” said Alejandro Caceres of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition. “Broken families and neighborhoods living in fear aren’t worth it.”
"The City of Austin did the right thing by standing with the immigrant community," said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. “We’re hopeful that Sheriff Hamilton and the Travis County Commissioners will do the same.”
There is a growing consensus that S-Comm is not working in Travis County. In recent weeks, local groups including the Travis County Democratic Party, the Network of Asian American Organizations and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo have all come out against the program.