Texas ‘Sanctuary’ County Shielded Dozens of Violent, Criminal Aliens

Watchdog uncovers Travis County's resistance to immigration enforcement

The 204 immigration hold requests that Travis County, Texas, rejected on the first day its “sanctuary” jurisdiction took effect included illegal immigrants charged or convicted of 31 acts of violence, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch.

The violent offenses included assault, aggregated assault, and assault with a deadly weapon. Other illegal immigrants held in the Travis County jail had criminal records that included 58 drunken driving convictions; 14 charges involving burglary, theft, or other property crimes; eight for drug possession; and six firearms violations.

“These policies are playing Russian Roulette with public safety.”

In addition, the documents reveal 45 other assorted felonies and misdemeanors, plus 35 offenses that were not listed or classified.

“These documents provide disturbing evidence of how Travis County’s sanctuary policy protects criminal illegal aliens, many of whom are dangerous felons, from deportation,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a prepared statement. “Sanctuary policies such as these put the public’s safety at risk.”

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said sanctuary policies all across the country increase the chances that innocent Americans will be victimized.

“These policies are playing Russian Roulette with public safety,” he said.

Judicial Watch on Wednesday released documents it obtained through a Texas open records request. The conservative watchdog made the request after the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported that the Travis County Sheriff’s Office had denied 196 so-called “detainers” on February 1 and released 37 illegal immigrants. That is when Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s new policy took effect.

The policy has set up confrontation with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has vowed to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions in the state.

At first, the new policy called for honoring detainers only when illegal immigrants were charged or convicted of capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, or human smuggling. Later, the sheriff expanded the list of honored detainers to include kidnapping, child abuse, and other crimes.

Travis County by far accounted for the highest number of declined detainers in the first Immigration and Customs Enforcement report published as part of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement. The ICE report detailed 142 declined detainers form Travis County in a single week from January 28 to February 3. The total for the country was 206.

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Mehlman said the situation in Travis County is not unusual in a country with hundreds of sanctuary jurisdictions of one type or another.

“It’s not a surprise at all,” he said. “We’ve seen countless other examples of jurisdictions with these policies that have released people who have gone on to murder people and hurt people.”

Sanctuary-city supporters often argue that their policies make communities safer by encouraging illegal immigrants — who might otherwise fear law enforcement — to report crimes and cooperate with police investigations. Mehlman rejected that rationale.

“It’s complete nonsense,” he said. “When you release criminals, you’re not making the community safer.”