If restricting local law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests is supposed to make communities safer, as some immigration advocates and law enforcement officials suggest, I’d like to hear them reconcile their beliefs with the actions of Texas’ Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.
Hernandez, sworn in as the newly elected head of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department last month, almost immediately adopted an anti-cooperation policy prohibiting her department from honoring nearly all ICE detainer requests.
“The public must be confident that local law enforcement is focused on local public safety, not on federal immigration enforcement,” Hernandez said.
Detainer requests are notices sent by ICE to local jurisdictions informing them of its desire to take physical custody of an individual in local custody.
The sheriff’s new policy stipulated that only four exempted crimes—murder, capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, and human trafficking—would be grounds for her department to honor an ICE detainer.
Unfortunately for the alleged victim of Hugo Javier Gallardo-Gonzalez and the community at large, accusations of repeatedly sexually abusing a child did not meet the criminal standard for ICE cooperation set by the sheriff.
Gallardo-Gonzalez was arrested this past Sunday, accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s young daughter beginning in 2014. The abuse is alleged to have continued for over a year.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement submitted a detainer request to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in order to take custody of Gallardo-Gonzalez, but their request was denied.
Gallardo-Gonzalez subsequently made bail the next day and is now waiting to be released once outfitted with a GPS monitor.
The decision by Hernandez to deny the ICE detainer request was reckless and borders on malfeasance.
Whose well-being is served by the decision to dismiss this ICE detainer request and release into the public an individual accused of a particularly heinous crime? Is the public safer as a result? Is the community of illegal individuals safer?
The answers to those questions seem clear enough. No one, save perhaps the accused man, is better off for the decision by the sheriff to deny assistance to ICE.
But this reality doesn’t conform to the narrative repeated by many that suggest law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities hurts public safety and erodes police and community relations.
Mayor Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe, New Mexico, argued only months ago that sanctuary cities have no impact on crime, stating, “Study after study [has] shown that sanctuary cities do not lead to an increase in crime because of the presence of people that are undocumented.”
But a 2014 draft study conducted by ICE doesn’t support the mayor’s notion that sanctuary cities have no impact on crime.
The study found that during the observation time frame (January 2014 to August 2014), 8,145 individuals were released from jail after arrest due to their respective jurisdictions declining an immigration detainer request from ICE.
Of the 8,145 individuals released, 1,867 were subsequently re-arrested a total of 4,298 times and accumulated a staggering 7,491 charges.
So much for the argument that sanctuary cities have no impact on crime.
The notion that local law enforcement cooperation with ICE will somehow also destroy police and community relations—specifically relations between the police and communities of illegal immigrants—is tenuous.
No community of decent people—citizens, illegal immigrants, or otherwise—wants to live in a society beset by violence and social dysfunction. Stripping local law enforcement of the ability to merely cooperate with their federal counterparts on issues as plain as the removal of a dangerous criminal jeopardizes the safety of all law-abiding individuals.
Hernandez and her refusal to cooperate with ICE on the removal of an individual accused of sexual assault against a child demonstrates the absurdity of those devoted to a dogmatic faith in sanctuary cities. Clarity and perspective should rule the day, especially when public safety is at stake.
Scott G. Erickson is the president of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.