Patterico's Pontifications

1/27/2008

Austin, Texas: Former Sanctuary City?

Filed under: Immigration — DRJ @ 12:16 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

For years, Austin, Texas, was a sanctuary city that did not notify federal immigration authorities when it arrested known or suspected illegal immigrants … but maybe not anymore:

“Immigration agents will set up an office at the Travis County Jail to monitor the status of people booked into the facility.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will likely be stationed in the jail 24 hours a day, seven days a week in coming months, said Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.

Until recently, federal immigration agents visited the jail occasionally to check the immigration status of inmates. They began increasing their presence in the facility late last year, leading to more immigration holds being placed on Travis County inmates for possible deportation, said Adrian Ramirez, assistant director for ICE’s San Antonio office.

An immigration hold is a legal order that says a jailed person should be released into ICE custody for possible deportation after completing the sentence.”

I suspect cases like Virginia “Jenny” Garcia’s rape and murder by an illegal immigrant (covered by Patterico in this Deport the Criminals First post) had something to do with this decision. The Travis County Sheriff publicly stated that he made this decision to increase public safety:

“Hamilton met with concerned community groups this week and said he decided to allow ICE agents to work out of the jail to improve joint efforts between local and federal law enforcement agencies to increase public safety.

“My contention is that the best way for (undocumented immigrants) to not come under scrutiny is to not commit crimes,” he said.”

Sheriff Hamilton is right and this could be a positive development for one of my favorite cities.

— DRJ

52 Responses to “Austin, Texas: Former Sanctuary City?”

  1. Jenny Garcia’s parents sued the city citing an existing policy against reporting undocumented immigrants, but the city’s legal team denies there ever was such a policy.

    City lawyer Anne Morgan said the city has no policy that prohibits employees, including police officers, from calling immigration officials.

    She notes that the City Council did in 1997 pass a resolution in response to stricter federal immigration laws labeling Austin a “safety zone” where all people “are treated equally, with respect and dignity regardless of immigration status.”

    That policy said city officials “will not discriminate or deny city services on the basis of a person’s immigration status.”

    Austin Police Association President Mike Sheffield said that while police are not prohibited from reporting illegal immigrants to their federal counterparts, they generally leave immigration enforcement to the federal agents who scour Travis County jails for immigration-law violators.

    steve (6a997d)

  2. Good thing they didn’t have a sanctuary policy so they could not change it by letting ICE in 24/7.

    DRJ (517d26)

  3. funny… I was in Burger King tonight getting some grub for work :) and noticed that you have to prove your citizenship to work for them (the application is a nation-wide one). Too bad everyone doesn’t follow that one simple rule.

    Verlin Martin (899dce)

  4. ICE officials decided in October to focus on jails in Travis and Bexar counties.

    Hence, the sheriff’s announcement of a 24/7 ICE office. The agency had been increasing their presence in recent months.

    Nothing in the article substantiates the notion that Austin had a policy banning city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status or impeded federal agencies or agents.

    steve (677161)

  5. Steve,

    It looks like we’ll have to agree to disagree since as recently as August 14, 2006, the Congressional Research Service classified Austin, Texas as a sanctuary city (page 30):

    “Localities, and in some cases individual police departments, in such areas that are considered “sanctuary cities,” have utilized various mechanisms to ensure that unauthorized aliens who may be present in their jurisdiction illegally are not turned in to federal authorities. 85″

    Here’s the text of footnote 85:

    Cities and counties currently that have sanctuary policies are: Anchorage, AK, Fairbanks, AK, Chandler, AZ, Fresno, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA, Sonoma County, CA, Evanston, IL, Cicero, IL, Cambridge, MA, Orleans, MA, Portland, ME, Baltimore, MD, Takoma Park, MD, Ann Arbor, MI, Detroit, MI, Minneapolis, MN, Durham, NC, Albuquerque, NM, Aztec, NM, Rio Arriba, County, NM, Sante Fe, NM, New York, NY, Ashland, OR, Gaston, OR, Marion County, OR, Austin, TX, Houston, TX, Katy, TX, Seattle, WA, and Madison, WI.”

    DRJ (517d26)

  6. That’s not fair DRJ. You can’t use information that’s not in the article.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  7. There are formal, written policies, and then there are informal, unwritten policies. It’s hard to deny a written policy, much easier to deny an unwritten policy.

    But unwritten policies are still followed, and enforced.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  8. Here’s a ‘Sanctuary City':

    http://www.takomaparkmd.gov/news/documents/pslnews.pdf

    The report that ICE agents would “scour” the Travis County Detention Center inmate population (they now have a 24/7 office) is from 2005. Austin denies it has a policy stating city employees, including the police are not required to report illegal immigrants to the federal authorities.

    “Austin, Texas: Former Sanctuary City” is a headline that takes a lot for granted.

    steve (e3f892)

  9. Steve,

    As I read it, this article states that the only immigration enforcement has been from ICE drop-in visits. Further, it seems clear the Travis County Detention Center is a county facility under the control of the Sheriff. Most large Texas cities maintain a jail for people arrested by the police, and only the more serious offenders are transferred to the county detention centers. If Austin does have a jail, I haven’t seen anything that suggests ICE makes regular visits.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  10. Nor is there anything that suggests the city jail *doesn’t* get visits from ICE agents.

    How does Sheriff Hamilton’s policy relegate Austin a “former sanctuary city?”

    steve (e3f892)

  11. Well … if you mean it the way I think you mean it, it doesn’t. Austin may still be a sanctuary city but I’m willing to cut it some slack since Sheriff Hamilton’s detention center is no longer part of the sanctuary.

    DRJ (517d26)

  12. But if you don’t mean what I think you mean (now I’m getting confused), occasional drop-in visits by ICE agents won’t protect a city from being classified as a sanctuary city.

    DRJ (517d26)

  13. There never was a basis for declaring a policy the city denies in the first place had ended. In truth, there is no universally accepted definition of the term “sanctuary city.” ICE “scoured” the holding cells before and will now have an on-site office.

    “Austin, Texas: Former Sanctuary City”
    is just tall talk.

    steve (b3d00c)

  14. Excellent. I’ve always wanted to be tall.

    DRJ (517d26)

  15. DRJ – I’m not sure what steve is arguing either. The article seems clear to me, especially the following:

    “Austin police have had a yearslong practice of not asking suspects or victims about their immigration status.

    Attorney David Peek wrote the sheriff to say he is worried about the new plan because members of the city’s immigrant community will think interacting with local law enforcement officers could lead to deportation and become afraid.

    Hamilton met with concerned community groups this week and said he decided to allow ICE agents to work out of the jail to improve joint efforts between local and federal law enforcement agencies to increase public safety.”

    I think he’s just being his normal difficult self when holding an untenable position.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  16. Okay, Steve, I don’t want you to feel like I’m taking your point too lightly or discussing this subject in bad faith. Based on what I’ve read so far, I think your point is that we don’t really have a definition for what a sanctuary city is and, even if we did, there’s nothing to show that Austin or any other city is acting solely to protect illegal immigrants. Instead, cities like Austin may have these policies for other, valid reasons like community policing.

    If so, that’s a good point and it’s one that has been addressed before such as in this Christian Science Monitor article. In fairness to my point, however, it seems clear that when even the Congressional Research Service classifies 32 cities as cities that embrace policies that result in sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and further that Austin is one of those cities, then there is a basis for calling Austin a sanctuary city.

    DRJ (517d26)

  17. Austin police say while they “are not prohibited from reporting illegal immigrants to their federal counterparts, they generally leave immigration enforcement to the federal agents who scour Travis County jails for immigration-law violators.”

    Sheriff Hamilton says he’s is providing an office for that.

    If y’all commend “former sanctuary city” designation on Austin as a result of this, be my guest.

    steve (b3d00c)

  18. I admire your tenacity, Steve. This is from your comment #4:

    “Nothing in the article substantiates the notion that Austin had a policy banning city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status or impeded federal agencies or agents.”

    Since that comment, I’ve provided a link to a Congressional Research Service article that specifically states Austin, Texas, has policies that operate to impede immigration enforcement.

    I also provided a link in comment 16 that contained information supporting your position, including a quote from DHS Secretary Chertoff that no community actively thwarted immigration enforcement, as well as information regarding how community policing policies have specifically helped the Austin police protect immigrants. However, the linked article also states:

    “For its part, ICE says that while sanctuary policies won’t stop its agents from enforcing immigration law in a city, it does “make it harder.” Cities could be shutting themselves off to valuable ICE assistance, such as Operation Community Shield, an antigang effort that has used immigration enforcement to arrest more than 6,000 gang members.”

    At this point, should we agree to disagree?

    DRJ (517d26)

  19. The CRS list is hardly the last word. Aside from misspelling one fabled city, they completely overlooked others like National City, CA, with its proclamation designating “Sanctuary City” status.

    No fear. There are tons of websites on the case:

    http://thevoice.name/?p=3926

    http://www.ojjpac.org/sanctuary.asp

    steve (b3d00c)

  20. Steve,

    I also noticed your use of the word “ya’ll,” which I’ve never seen you use before. Are you a Texan/Southerner or are you making fun of their speech?

    DRJ (517d26)

  21. CRS is a more neutral and reputable source that I thought you would find acceptable. Apparently not.

    DRJ (517d26)

  22. I’m arguing Austin was singled out while a large nunber of jurisdictions with definitively more explicit policies were omitted:

    http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/LocalLaw/locallaw_limiting_tbl_2007-10-11.pdf

    I feel entitled to suggest the CRS criteria were casually drawn. One need only look and compare policies, if one is open-minded.

    steve (b3d00c)

  23. Okay. Does that mean your point is that I’m not open-minded because I singled out Austin for a post when there are worse offenders?

    DRJ (517d26)

  24. I am a former Texan. It was a long time ago, though some of truest friends live there.

    steve (b3d00c)

  25. There are no former Texans, Steve. Once a Texan, always a Texan … and it certainly entitles you to use the term ya’ll.

    DRJ (517d26)

  26. Does that mean your point is that I’m not open-minded because I singled out Austin for a post when there are worse offenders?

    No, there are many cities that instituted policy that a reasonable person would construe as limiting the enforcement of immigration laws. Austin’s ordinance is there for comparison. How does it stack up?

    steve (b3d00c)

  27. DRJ – Patience is a virtue. I have found that screaming at a brick wall is just about as effective as attempts to use logic and facts to debate with the steve’s of the world.

    JD (fc7319)

  28. No chance of addressing me, JD? Insults work better as a bank shot?

    steve (b3d00c)

  29. I don’t know how the Austin ordinances stack up to other cities’ ordinances, Steve.

    DRJ (517d26)

  30. You need indulge me no further. #22 has the link comparing all/most such ordinances.

    steve (b3d00c)

  31. steve – I was speaking to DRJ and pointing out how incredibly patient she has been with you.

    DRJ – I would suggest that if steve wants to start his own blog and write a post about how cities other than Austin are sanctuary cities to a greater degreee, he should do so.

    steve – other cities are f*#&king irrelevant to DRJ’s post. It is about Austin, and the changes being enacted. You are just creating an argument where one does not exist, except in your own mind.

    Now back to ignoring …

    JD (fc7319)

  32. Steve,

    That is an interesting link. However, it doesn’t provide information (that I can find) regarding how the Austin “safety zone” policy has been implemented by local law enforcement.

    DRJ (517d26)

  33. I found this from a May 2007 Austin Chronicle article:

    “APD spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said the [police] department isn’t “concerned with whether you’re in the country legally or illegally,” only with whether someone is a victim or a suspect in a crime. The city isn’t concerned with Austinites’ immigration status, either. Council passed a resolution in 1997 declaring Austin a “‘safety zone’ where all persons are treated equally, with respect and dignity, regardless of immigration status,” making it official city policy not to discriminate or deny “city services on the basis of a person’s immigration status.”

    Local police and public servants leave immigration law enforcement to the feds, who weighed in on the rallies and marches with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release. “ICE enforces the law 365 days a year using targeted enforcement actions based on investigations, intelligence and priorities,” said ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda in a statement. “We do not conduct random sweeps, but no one in the country illegally is immune from being detained and placed into removal proceedings if encountered by law enforcement.”

    DRJ (517d26)

  34. Thanks for adding your perspective, JD. It seems I’ve monopolized the comments today and that’s probably not a good thing.

    DRJ (517d26)

  35. It seems I’ve monopolized the comments today and that’s probably not a good thing.

    Wouldn’t say “monopolized” at all; in fact reading your take on things, along w/ others here of course, is always interesting and makes me think. Just MO.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  36. Thanks for adding your perspective, JD. It seems I’ve monopolized the comments today and that’s probably not a good thing.

    Your perspective is one we need more of, DRJ, not less. Please monopolize. I apologize if my point did not come across more clearly.

    I was just pointing out that you have been exceedingly nice in the face of someone who is being either willfully obtuse, or aggessively ignorant.

    JD (fc7319)

  37. To be clear, DRJ. More DRJ is always a good thing. Confronting stupidity head-on, like you are doing with steve – always a good thing. I marvel at how kind you, and others, can be when dealing with that.

    JD (fc7319)

  38. Everyone agrees: Austin was a “sanctuary city” but is no more.

    steve (b3d00c)

  39. gawd i hate austin. the friggin’ berkely of Texas.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  40. JD and no one you know – I understood and thanks to both of you.

    Steve – I know you’re kidding but I did track down the final question that nagged at me. It turns out the Austin jail is no longer managed by the Police Department as I think it was when I lived there years ago. It looks like all detention facilities are managed by the Travis County Sheriff. (Here’s a link to the Sheriff’s Department brochure if you are interested.) I assume this means all inmates are screened by ICE, and possibly even everyone who is arrested in Austin — depending on whether one or both of the Sheriff’s two detention facilities are covered by the press release.

    Chas – Hush! :) I love Austin, warts and all.

    DRJ (517d26)

  41. You know, steve, I went back and read all of this over again, thinking I may have been a bit hard on you. But, I wasn’t. DRJ did not say Austin was a bigger sanctuary city than other places, or that their lack of enforcement was done to a greater, or even a lesser degree than anywhere else. The whole post specifically referenced Austin, and was about the action that they had taken in the past, and those that they will be employing in the future.

    Since that orignal post, you have argued all sorts of things, but mainly against arguements not made in the post itself.

    JD (fc7319)

  42. Sorry. I am objectively not playing well with others tonight. My eyes are still bleeding from watching Pelosi not blink through the entire SOTU.

    JD (fc7319)

  43. 1,002 blinks per Malkin.

    DRJ (517d26)

  44. DRJ

    I used to enjoy Austin like it was nobody’s business. Austin is responsible for me getting a 6 year degree from SWTSU. Now its just a traffic jam on the way to New Braunfels.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  45. JD – steve tried to shift the discussion to cities that were not the subject of the post. He tried argue that material was not in a linked article that was. Then he argued definitions. It was just not good faith participation on his part, but we have seen that before, most recently on the Lancet thread I believe.

    In a way he acts like a truther with these arguments, e.g., that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.

    The brick wall analogy is fine. It’s also nice to have DRJ’s participation.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  46. Thanks, JD. It’s not “aggressively ignorant” to probe whether Austin’s sanctuary city designation – which we subsequently learned came from the Congressional Research Service – was well grounded.

    The sheriff manages *all* detention facilities, as DRJ points out. The question arises, does APD really need to task arresting officers with assessing immigration status, given the above? They didn’t before, and I suggest they will not begin now with ICE manning a 24/7 desk.

    I afree that the “safe zone” ordinance probably encouraged lax reporting. Sheriff Hamilton’s actions are well advised.

    steve (b3d00c)

  47. There are no former Texans, Steve. Once a Texan, always a Texan … and it certainly entitles you to use the term ya’ll.

    I just caught myself saying “y’all” in a jury trial. It seemed natural to me, but I thought the judge shot me a funny look.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  48. APD spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said the [police] department isn’t “concerned with whether you’re in the country legally or illegally,”

    That pretty much sums it up.

    “safe zone” ordinance probably encouraged lax reporting

    You don’t say. You could knock me over with a feather.

    Willfully obtuse it is then. Thanks for clearing that up.

    JD (fc7319)

  49. It’s not “aggressively ignorant” to probe whether Austin’s sanctuary city designation – which we subsequently learned came from the Congressional Research Service – was well grounded.

    Only one person on the thread was concerned with the designation and definition as opposed to the meat of the story. Who is this “we” kemosabe?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  50. Travis county and the city of Austin are different government entities each with their own law enforcement agencies. I believe the city police still turn a blind eye to immigration status/deportation order issues.

    masstexodus (7d7b16)

  51. Giving some thought to moving to Austin, but wondering if they are tightening up on illegals.
    Somehow, havens for illegals don’t exactly make me want to invest.

    Lots of foreclosures in your fair city.

    Joe B. (eafded)

  52. It’s been nearly a year since Culpeper Town Councilman Steve Jenkins started crusading for a crackdown on illegal immigrants, the landlords who house them and the businesses that hire them.
    Jenkins, a former police officer who was elected to the council last year, says he has led the push to rein in illegal immigration at the local level because the federal government wasn’t taking the lead. He also speaks of his roots in the community, which go back 300 years.

    A Town Divided Over immigration (174689)


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