Gov. Abbott demands Travis County reverse "sanctuary" policy

There are a number of issues that Governor Greg Abbott is calling on lawmakers to fix this legislative session. One of those is  banning sanctuary cities. “The intent does nothing to disrupt the communities, it does everything to protect the safety and security of our citizens,” he says.

And according to a proposed law making its way through the state legislature, that means requiring every immigration hold request be honored in Texas jails. “Texans expect government to keep them safe,” Governor Abbott says, adding, “now they have realized this Sheriff's sanctuary city policy has released dozens of criminals.”

What the Governor is referring to a Fox 7 report that highlighted the more than a dozen defendants charged with violent crimes who were able to bail out of the Travis County Jail in early February. That's after Sheriff Sally Hernandez launched her new policy denying most ICE requests. “Think of the women and children who have been sexually assaulted in the past by some of these criminals, knowing these criminals are back on the street because of some idiotic policy by the Sheriff of Travis County.”

As the Fox 7 investigation uncovered among those with ICE detainers not honored, who made bail in early February:

  • Ramiro Espinoza Marquez, 24. He is charged with “Injury to a Child”, a Third Degree felony. Marquez is alleged to have hurt a fourteen year old boy.
  • Police say Gilmar Darosa, 37, sexually assaulted a young woman. He is being charged with “Sexual Assault”, a Second Degree Felony
  • Amadeo Navarrete, 25 is alleged have sexually assaulted a teenage girl. Austin Police say in court paperwork that the victim was so distraught she tried to harm herself.

“We will not tolerate any Sheriff or any law enforcement official who puts people back out on the streets who commit violent crimes,” says Governor Abbott about Sheriff Hernandez’s policy.

Fox 7 was first to report that an ICE detainer was also denied for Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez, 31. He is being charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl who is now 11. Court records show Gallardo-Gonzalez began assaulting her when she was 9. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Fox 7 on Monday that Gallardo-Gonzalez had made bail and was being fitted for a GPS tracker before his case was flagged. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office says that’s when they determined his charges qualified for an ICE detainer. Additionally, the Travis County District Attorney’s office petitioned a judge to have Gallardo-Gonzalez’s bail raised. The request was granted, bail has been set for $250,000.

Republican lawmakers joined by several Democrats cited the case as reason enough Sheriff Hernandez to end her policy. 

“Any law enforcement official who thinks they are above the law is being petty, is playing politics, is abandoning their oath of office,” says Governor Abbott.

Bail for several of the felony suspects with detainer requests had been set low, and on Wednesday District Attorney Margaret told Fox 7 she would be scrutinizing those in an effort to make sure the defendants are tried in Travis County. On Thursday, during his interview with Fox 7, Governor Abbott praised DA Moore’s effort, “The Travis County District Attorney wants to hold them, prosecute them, keep them in jail here  which is the right thing, so they can't be deported just to return once again.”

Which the Governor says, as Texas is working closely with the President Trump’s administration, he believes they won't have the chance to, “If you are deported, your chances of getting back in have diminished tremendously,” he says.

Governor Abbott has already traveled to the Texas – Mexico border with the Secretary of Homeland Security, General John Kelly.  “They have already begun ramping up the process,” he says of the new administration, adding, “ securing the border but working to ensure that these people are not going to be going through a revolving door sent back to Mexico or wherever they're coming from just to re-enter into the us.”

A spokesperson for Sheriff Hernandez sent Fox 7 the below statement in response to Governor Abbott’s comments:

Governor Abbott’s response is disingenuous.  The fact is that so-called “dangerous criminals,” who happen to be U.S. citizens, are and have been released back out on the street as judges and courts deem appropriate.  This is an important element of our judicial system that allows for case review and setting of an appropriate bond to ensure those who should remain in custody are properly held.  It seems that many of our state leaders are willing to turn a blind eye to this obvious disparity and prefer to promote fear over rational discussion of this complex issue.

I am not violating any laws, nor am I violating my oath of office.  I am not the one playing politics. 

However, I realize that a sound policy requires the balancing of all public concerns, real or perceived, to achieve the highest degree of public safety.  I have directed my jail staff to work more closely with the Travis County DA’s Office to exercise discretion in any individual case to ensure justice is served.  I anticipate more ICE Detainer requests will be honored through this action.  Charges that will specifically be considered for detainer requests will be felony charges against children or elderly and felony aggravated offenses.  Other charges will be reviewed on a case by case basis.