Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says 142 charged suspects on requested immigration detainers were released from the Travis County jail during a one-week period last month.
The releases constituted nearly 70 percent of the 206 inmates freed nationally due to denial of detainer requests by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“This is deeply disturbing and highlights the urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas,” Abbott said.
“The Travis County sheriff’s decision to deny ICE detainer requests and release back into our communities criminals charged with heinous crimes – including sexual offenses against children, domestic violence and kidnapping – is dangerous and should be criminal in itself,” the Republican governor said.
Major Wes Priddy, spokesman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said he could not confirm the 142 figure because no names were included in the ICE report cited by Abbott.
“I feel confident that most of those are still in custody,” Priddy told Watchdog.org. He called the ICE report “anecdotal.”
Priddy said the sheriff’s office formally notifies ICE when a detainer, or hold, is not honored.
Under an executive order by President Donald Trump, ICE now issues weekly accounting of detainers refused by local authorities.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said he supports the administration’s efforts “to enforce laws that stop criminal immigrants from being released into the community.”
“Travis County officials endanger innocent Texans when they release immigrants who have been convicted of crimes that include domestic violence, aggravated assault and DUIs,” Smith said.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 70 percent of violent offenders are arrested for a new crime within five years of release from jail or prison.
The Texas Senate has passed Senate Bill 4, which would penalize sanctuary cities. Withholding state grants and funding could cost Travis County tens of millions of dollars, according to a Watchdog report.
Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward.