Travis County Sheriff’s War with Abbott and Trump

Elected officials in the state of Texas have to find a way to serve their respective communities and constituencies without beating up on each other. The situation stems from Governor Greg Abbott’s edict for law enforcement in Travis County, located in Austin, to be stricter in their processing procedures. The policy at the heart of the matter is known as “Sanctuary Cities”. And according to Sheriff Hernandez, good community relations with local police officers call for it. This need for finding a middle ground, when it comes to the best method for recognizing the law and enforcing it, is not exactly new between these two committed professionals. But there is a chance, in the foreseeable future that a reaction and fallout in the political arena may play out for the first time.

Hernandez has a policy that only allows deputies to inquire about an individual‘s citizen status under strict conditions. The policy also sets the same standards for jailers when it comes to holds and releases of people in custody. The policy states that without a court order, there is to be no use of department time or resources interacting with Immigrant Customs Enforcement. The circumstances in which staff members should reverse their standard operating procedures are in the cases of murder, suspected murder, aggravated sexual assault or continuous smuggling of persons. It also applies to any detainee who already has a conviction of these crimes. So, unless a request from the courthouse is sent attached to a particular set of forms or a prisoner is on the hook for serious offenses, they do not need to worry about deportation.

This course of action by the sheriff’s department is an issue for the governor, and he says that he is ready to do something about it. What he plans to do is use the power of the purse to force Hernandez’ hand. But by no means is this a personal ‘tug a war’ between two egos on a power trip. Abbott intends to make Austin’s Travis County the first on a list to lose funding from his office. To be sure, this action is not meant to crush or cripple the sheriff’s department but only to get different results from its doing a good job. For the record, the department already does good work every day like many other excellent sheriffs departments across the country. That is not in dispute or the point of the Governor’s announced course of actions. For Abbott, it is about local enforcement professionals cooperating with federal offices.

For the sheriffs of, it comes down to cultivating and keeping the trust and cooperation of a community. Most people agree that law enforcement often needs collaboration and inclusion of the general public as a whole to protect and serve all people more efficiently. However new political winds appear to be shifting in a direction that favors the governor’s point of view. Perhaps this is change on the field puts him in the position to affect a long-standing change procedure. A line in the sand is being drawn, but it is unclear how serious the results of any crossing of it will be.