Republican Gov. Greg Abbott warned the Dallas County sheriff on Monday that her new and softer approach to dealing with undocumented immigrants who commit crimes “will no longer be tolerated in Texas.”
Abbott wrote a letter to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, in the wake of reports that she planned to free some of the immigrants processed through the Dallas County jail rather than hand them over to federal authorities as requested. According to recent news reports, Valdez said her office would consider federal requests on a “case by case” basis and would not automatically hand over immigrants to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“Your refusal to fully participate in a federal law enforcement program intended to keep dangerous criminals off the streets leaves the state no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans,” Abbott said. “Policies like yours compel Texas to take action to protect Texans’ safety.”
A call to the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned.
Abbott has been under increasing pressure from his party to call a special session to pass legislation banning “sanctuary” policies designed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“We absolutely don’t need to wait until 2017,” said JoAnn Fleming, director of Grassroots America We The People, a conservative group in East Texas that has been pushing for Abbott to call a special session on the issue. “This is a simple matter of public safety and national security.”
Fleming spoke to The Texas Tribune last week, before Abbott released his letter to Valdez. The Legislature won’t meet again in regular session until 2017. The governor can call an unlimited number of 30-day sessions at his discretion.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether he would be willing to call a special session, but his office listed a series of possible policy changes — all of which would require lawmakers in session to enact — as a way of dealing with authorities who don’t cooperate with Uncle Sam on immigration detainers.
— Passing laws prohibiting local authorities from passing sanctuary policies.
— Making it illegal for a county sheriff to refuse a “detainer” request for an undocumented immigrant.
— Making local authorities financially liable for actions of illegal immigrants who are released because a county sheriff failed to honor a detainer request.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/26/abbott-hits-dallas-over-sanctuary-policies/.