Texas cuts funding to Travis County over ‘sanctuary city’ policy

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By Rory Carroll

<span class="articleLocation”>Texas Governor Greg Abbott made good on his
promise to cut $1.5 million in grant money to Travis County
after the county sheriff said she would limit her department’s
cooperation with federal immigration officers, county officials
said on Wednesday.

Travis County includes the Texas capital Austin, which is a
so-called “sanctuary city”.

Abbott spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said the money that would
be withheld from Travis County is a series of one-time criminal
justice grants totaling $1.8 million. About $300,000 of that has
already been spent, but she said the governor would not try to
claw back that money.

Sanctuary cities in general offer safe harbor to illegal
immigrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to
advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Sanctuary
city is not an official designation.

In January, newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez said in a
statement on the Sheriff’s Office website that she was “following all state and federal laws, and upholding
constitutional rights to due process for all in our criminal
justice system. Our community is safer when people can report
crimes without fear of deportation.”

In a Jan. 20 memo seen by Reuters, her office said it would
make an exception for people charged with serious crimes like
murder, aggravated sexual assault, or human smuggling.

Hernandez was not available to comment on Wednesday.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who manages the county’s
budget, said on Wednesday that Hernandez’s directive does not
violate state or federal law.

“Any of the 254 sheriffs across the state of Texas has
discretion to decide whether or not to put their resources
toward assisting federal immigration enforcement,” she said in a
press conference that was webcast.

“I will do everything I can to protect revenue sources. I
believe it is foolhardy for the state to starve itself by
starving its own programs,” she said.

In a letter to Hernandez in January, Abbott said her
position was “not a pronouncement of sound public policy; it is
a dangerous game of political Russian roulette – with the lives
of Texans at stake.”

Abbott has voiced strong support for proposed legislation in
Texas that would penalize sanctuary cities.

On Tuesday, San Francisco, another sanctuary city, filed a
lawsuit challenging a Jan. 25 executive order by President
Donald Trump directing the U.S. government to withhold money
from cities that have adopted sanctuary policies toward illegal

The lawsuit marked the first court challenge over the
sanctuary order.

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston,
Denver, Washington and Seattle, in addition to San Francisco,
offer forms of protection to illegal immigrants, and billions of
dollars in federal aid to those cities could be at risk.

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