Texas Governor Abbott issues warning over immigrant detentions

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 9:51 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday threatened to withhold state grant money to Dallas County if the Democratic sheriff there does not detain undocumented immigrants as requested by federal authorities.

Analysts said the warning that extended to sheriffs across the state was mostly aimed at placating Republicans, many of whom want a special legislative session to crack down on cities they see as offering sanctuary to immigrants.

"He's throwing them a bone but not doing much,” said Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has said her office is abiding by federal guidelines.

In October, Abbott warned Valdez that he will crack down on local officials who do not report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

So far this year, Abbott’s office said it has issued over $4 million in funding to sheriffs, with $78,000 in grants to Dallas County.

The governor's Criminal Justice Division provide counties with funding for drug courts, juvenile justice programs, body cameras and a crime victim compensation program.

"As governor, I simply will not allow CJD grant funding administered by this office to support law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with a federal law enforcement program that is intended to keep dangerous criminals off Texas streets,” Abbott wrote.

Valdez has eased policies on holding immigrants charged with minor offenses for an additional 48 hours past their scheduled release to give U.S. immigration agents additional time to investigate their status, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Sheriff's officials were not immediately available for comment.

The sheriff's office said its new policy was similar to guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The sheriff's office said it accepted nearly 1,500 requests for detention from Immigration and Customs Enforcement so far this year and has rejected none, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The funding that could be lost would likely be less than what a county would spend on holding immigrants charged with minor offenses for at least two days past their scheduled release, according to Jillson.

Republicans have been taking aim at immigration policies in the state's largest metropolitan areas including Dallas and Houston, which have turned into Democratic bases and been notable exceptions to Republican control of the state.

Some Republicans believe Dallas and Houston are among the so-called sanctuary cities that do not report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric Walsh)