Gov. Greg Abbott Wrongly Accuses Latina Sheriff of “Sanctuary Cities” Policies

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The GOP has completely abandoned the middle on immigration but the grassroots’ insatiable appetite for red meat has turned into an uncontrollable blood lust.

Greg Abbott sought to appease the base on “sanctuary cities” this week by firing off a warning to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez that her office’s soft approach to undocumented immigrants “will no longer be tolerated in Texas.”

Then Abbott did something strange. He chastised her for her “refusal to fully participate” in a federal program. Remember this is the same man who as Attorney General bragged that, “I go into the office, I sue the federal Government and then I go home,” and, surely titillated secessionists when he said, “I am about ready…to go to the Red River and raise a ‘Come and Take It’ flag to tell the feds to stay out of Texas.”

So why would someone so adamantly against the federal government scold a local official for not participating in a voluntary program? Because It is merely a pretense for giving more power to the state and tying the hands of local government. Abbott’s letter to the Sheriff continued with, “Policies like yours compel Texas to take action to protect Texans’ safety.”

What would those new laws look like? Here are 4 points on his agenda:

  • Passing laws that prohibit any policy or action that promotes sanctuary to people in this state illegally.
  • Enacting laws that make it illegal for a Sheriff’s Department to not honor a federal immigration detainer request.
  • Evaluating the extent to which local taxpayers should foot the bill for local decisions that increase costs for Texas’ health and education systems.
  • Amending the Tort Claims Act to ensure counties are fully financially responsible for the actions of any illegal immigrants who are released because the county’s Sheriff failed to honor an ICE detainer request.

Dallas State Representative Rafael Anchia had his own idea of why Abbott was taking such an extreme position. “Governor Abbott appears to be vying for the title of most anti-Hispanic governor in the history of Texas,” and, “… will soon be known as the Donald Trump of Texas if he continues his ill-advised pursuit of anti-Hispanic policies.” Anchia also wrote a Trib Talk that pointed out the irony of an Abbott tweet promoting Dallas’ friendly business environment, being followed by his promotion of anti-sanctuary city legislation. Part of Texas’ economic success, Anchia argues, is our relationship with our Number 1 trading partner Mexico.

Abbott’s seems to have thought that announcing his immigration agenda for the 85th Legislature with tough words on sanctuary cities, would tide the base over until next session. But as the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock points out, Abbott may have miscalculated the patience of angry Tea Party activists who demand action now.

One prominent conservative, Jo Ann Fleming, wrote an Op-Ed in response to the Governor’s letter saying that “Only Governor Abbott can set this right, and we urge him to do it now. Waiting until 2017 to curtail lawlessness and to reduce the threats to public safety and national security is dangerous to Texas and the rest of the nation. Why wait?”

Her sentiments for the Governor to call an immediate special session have been echoed this week by State Representative David Simpson who is running for an open Senate seat.

So after making it clear that he believes the Sheriff is putting people in harm’s way, why would Abbott wait? Or better yet, why was this not a priority in January of 2015?

Part of Abbott’s political miscalculation may be that we no longer cycle out of campaign season any more. We may not think of the Tea Party as the soundest policy-minded political movement, but they entered the national stage just as social media became an indispensable campaign tool and they are highly organized, impatient and demand a level of purity that’s poisonous to a system constructed by and for compromise.

According to an ABC report, “Big-city sheriffs have often told Texas lawmakers that sanctuary city laws would impose a chilling effect in immigrant communities and dissuade them from seeking help or helping police solve crimes.” And if you are curious what exact a “Sanctuary City” is they explain, “Sanctuary cities” has no legal meaning, but the term has become shorthand describing cities that provide refuge to people living in the country without legal permission.”

In promoting bad policy, the Governor also misrepresented the Sheriff’s policy. Raul Reyna, a spokesperson for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department said, “ICE is familiar with our agreement and doesn’t submit a detainer unless it falls into the upper two categories that are designated so in effect we have declined zero.” The Sheriff’s actions are not “rogue,” but follow a national trend of local law enforcement cooling to the federal program.

Activists within the immigrant community have responded loudly. The North Texas Immigration Coalition accuses Abbott of, ”stirring up hate and racism across the country,” saying that, “Gov. Abbott wants to turn all of Texas into a deportation mill for the federal government.” They also claim that Sheriff Valdez has already worked too closely with ICE in the jail system, which they say, “doesn’t make us safer; it tears families apart and undermines the rule of law.”

The Workers’ Defense Project has organized a 3-day pilgrimage from a detention center in Hutto to the Governor’s mansion on November 21. That date is the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Earlier this year Abbott launched his “LIFE” initiative to further curtail legal access to abortion. One thing not covered by the supposed pro-life agenda? A process to recognize the nearly 2 million undocumented people living in this state, or even to issue birth certificates to their American-born children. If he believes all life is sacred, or even that all lives matter, he has a funny of showing it.

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About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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