Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez already was on ICE's radar for announcing earlier this year that she'd defy federal immigration detainers filed at the jail - only under extreme circumstances.
She's at it again this week. The U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is accusing Hernandez's office of releasing an inmate from the Travis County Jail without notifying them. The inmate, Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero, 33, is a violent gang member who had previously been deported four times. He has now been taken back into custody.
Hernandez strongly pushed back at ICE's assertion, insisting that her office did alert ICE - multiple times. She also accused the immigration office of "overreacting" and making political judgments.
Her office weighed in on Tuesday.
“It is unfortunate that once again, ICE has presented inaccurate information in what appears to be an effort to publicly shame agencies with which it disagrees,” the sheriff’s office said. “Open communication between the Travis County Jail and ICE is a daily, if not hourly occurrence. A simple phone call or email would have clarified their error privately and professionally.”
Mendoza-Caballero's police record can explain perhaps why ICE "overreacted" as they did.
Mendoza-Caballero was convicted of stealing a firearm in Hopkins County in 2008, and of illegally entering the United States in Arizona, ICE said, adding that he had been removed four times before, with the latest removal in 2013.
According to Travis County Jail records, Mendoza-Caballero was booked into the facility in June on a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury and a city ordinance violation. Authorities at the jail also confirmed that an ICE detainer was filed on him when he was arrested.
Texas is fast adopting some of the strictest immigration laws in the country. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill to ban sanctuary cities in May. Police chiefs, sheriffs and constables who choose not to comply will be criminally charged, while local jurisdictions can be fined up to $25,000 for a day for violating the law.
A few key pieces of legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities are also making their way through Congress. Kate's Law, which punishes illegal immigrants who have been deported and then returned to the States, passed the House 257 to 157. On the same day, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would strip any city of federal funding that chooses to harbor illegal immigrants, passed 228-195.