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Texas county didn’t seek governor’s body armor grant because of immigration policy

Sheriff Sally Hernandez would not sign a letter committing to hold arrested undocumented immigrants for ICE


By PoliceOne Staff

AUSTIN, Texas — A sheriff’s office in Texas didn’t receive rifle-resistant body armor because a sheriff won’t commit to the governor’s immigration policy.

KXAN reports that in January, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would fund $23 million in grants to purchase 33,000 rifle-resistant body armors for more than 450 law enforcement agencies. But the Travis County Sheriff’s Office didn’t apply for the grant because of a condition from the governor’s office.

In this Friday, July 8, 2016 file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, responds to questions during a news conference at City Hall in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
In this Friday, July 8, 2016 file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, responds to questions during a news conference at City Hall in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

The governor’s office required agencies applying for the grant to “sign a letter confirming compliance with ICE detainer requests both now and during the grant term of at least one year.”  Despite being recommended to apply for the grant, Sheriff Sally Hernandez would not sign the letter committing to hold arrested undocumented immigrants for ICE.

County staff said Hernandez wanted to wait until the outcome of Senate Bill 4. In spring 2017, lawmakers passed the bill, which requires county sheriffs to honor ICE detainers or hold arrested people in jail until federal immigration officials pick them up for possible deportation.

Opponents of the law sued the state and the measure is now awaiting a ruling by an appeals court.

According to county documents, if the law is upheld, Hernandez “would sign the letter and the grant would be submitted.” But if the law is struck down or no action is taken, the sheriff will not sign it.

By signing the letter, Abbott’s office would also have “sole discretion” over approving the grants. The governor’s office can require agencies to honor ICE detainers whether SB 4 is upheld or not.

Hernandez is complying with SB 4 but doesn’t plan on signing the letter, according to a spokeswoman for the department. If the bill is struck down, the department will revert to their old policy and only hold people arrested for very violent crimes.

Travis County deputies currently have body armor that protects against low-caliber bullets. The department said they are searching for other funding sources to pay for better body armor.

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