Underscoring the need for legislative reform, one major Texas city is poised to become the first true, dyed-in-the-wool sanctuary city in open defiance of state and federal law.
It’s no secret that Austin overwhelmingly leans liberal – making it a near certainty (especially considering the expected turnout this presidential election will bring) that Democrats are likely to win most partisan races countywide. Therein lies the concern: In the open race for Travis County Sheriff, the Democratic contender has promised to end all cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement –making Austin the first true sanctuary city in the state.
Since immigration is ultimately a federal responsibility, deportations are handled by ICE in conjunction with local police, who make the initial arrests. Typically, in matters where ICE demonstrates an interest in deporting an individual arrested by local police, those departments (or offices) will retain the individuals until ICE has time to act.
Democratic candidate for Sheriff Sally Hernandez has promised to end that cooperation required by law by outright refusing to hold inmates for ICE.
“I just don’t think you solve the criminal justice process by deporting them,” Hernandez stated. “How can you release somebody back into the population [to] do more harm? Where is it going to stop?” said Joe Martinez, Hernandez’s GOP opponent for Sherriff. “When you hurt or maim and kill somebody? An American citizen or another immigrant?”
“The federal government has a job to do,” Martinez added. “Let’s let them do their job.”
Democrats have long advocated that immigration laws be ignored, at the discretion of liberal public officials, rather than advocate that laws be reformed. It’s somewhat analogous to asking taxpayers to simply not pay taxes, rather than change the tax laws. With immigration, however, there are public safety and national security concerns.
The mere prospect of Austin becoming a true-blue sanctuary city is case enough for legislative action. The issue will undoubtedly be brought up this coming legislative session just as it has in previous legislative sessions. But despite 62.74% of Republican primary voters supporting a ban on sanctuary cities, the measure will undoubtedly face obstruction from so-called ‘Republican’ lawmakers who talk tough on immigration – while killing attempts to address the issue.
Last legislative session, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) authored HB 4117 – a ban on sanctuary cities. In predictable fashion, Straus routed that bill to the State Affairs committee, where liberal chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) killed the measure – along with other important immigration measures.
With Gov. Abbott calling for bringing an end to sanctuary cities statewide earlier this year, and a majority of Republican primary voters voicing support for the measure, it will be difficult for liberal coalition that governs the House to dodge culpability for killing the policy – that is, if voters pay attention during session and communicate with their representatives.