TRAVIS COUNTY - On the day that Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's new policy regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers at the local jail goes into effect, Gov. Greg Abbott is withholding $1.5 million in grants to the county, KVUE's and the Austin American-Statesman's Tony Plohetski has confirmed.
A spokesperson for Abbott told Plohetski that starting Wednesday morning, "the governor's office is canceling all currently active Travis County criminal justice grants." Because the state has only paid about $300,000 of $1.8 million to the county, the loss is about $1.5 million.
The grants support projects such as family violence education and a special court for veterans, Plohetski said.
Drawing both praise and criticism, Hernandez announced the policy to limit the sheriff department's cooperation with ICE last month. Unless they have been charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault or human smuggling, people put in Travis County's jail who have been flagged by ICE will be allowed to post bond and be released.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt shared a letter sent to Gov. Abbott which said in part that the sheriff's policy "is well within the requirements of 8 USC Sections 1373 and 1644." She said those are federal statutes that concern the exchange of information between local law enforcement and ICE about the immigration status of an individual.
"I am confident Sheriff Hernandez' policy is well within current law," Eckhardt's letter to Gov. Abbott said. "I am certain you have come to the same conclusion; else you would not be seeking to change current State law to put all Texas Sheriffs in the service of the United States Department of Homeland Security."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he and his supporters aren't opposed to legal immigration. He said they are only targeting those who are here illegally and who are dangerous. But Hernandez and her supporters said law abiding community members -- people who pay taxes and contribute to society -- are being lumped in with criminals.
She has now found herself enthralled in one of the biggest battles this legislative session.
Tuesday, during his State of the State Address, Abbott named "eliminating sanctuary cities" an emergency item for the state.
He even said he would seek to remove county sheriffs from office who don't comply. That would include Hernandez.
This developing story will update as more information becomes available.
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