Update, Jan. 25: The Austin American-Statesman reported in a Wednesday story that Gov. Greg Abbott said in an interview with Fox News that he would seek ways to remove sheriffs who do not comply with federal immigration officials from office. The newspaper reported later in the day that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett issued a statement that neither the state governor “nor the Legislature have any authority to remove a duly elected sheriff, whose office is established by the Texas Constitution.”
Only five days after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s announcement, reported by the Texas Tribune, that her department would be reducing cooperation with federal immigration authorities, U.S. President Donald Trump’s office announced that he would soon sign an executive order to deny federal funding to cities with policies similar to those of Hernandez’s office.
As Patrick Sisson reported on Curbed.com, such an order would affect so-called “sanctuary cities”—those that don’t enforce federal immigration laws, most often by refusing to hold undocumented people who have either not been charged with a crime or who have been convicted, sentenced, and served their jail time.
Referring to an estimate provided by the New York Times, Sisson reported that at least 364 counties nationwide, includes 39 cities, could be considered sanctuary cities. (The list counts Travis County, rather than Austin specifically, as one of those.)
Hernandez’s Friday announcement drew threats to withdraw county funding from some state legislators almost immediately after it was made, the Tribune reported, citing specifically Gov. Greg Abbot’s tweet that his office would “cut funding for Travis County adopting sanctuary policies," adding, "Stiffer penalties coming."
The Tribune also listed bills proposing to penalize sanctuary cities that had already been filed by several state lawmakers and referred to an Austin American-Statesman story from the previous week that reported the sheriff’s policy could cost the county $1.8 million in state grants.
In a related story published Sunday, the Statesman reported that Austin’s budget includes nearly $43 million in federal grants (much of it administered by state agencies) and that Travis County received more than $10 million last year in federal money and more than $4.7 million in state funds.
Sisson noted that there are several unknowns about how the president’s order would affect cities, depending on such factors as how the decree defines a “sanctuary city,” what kind of funding would be withdrawn, and whether or not congressional approval of a new law would be required to withdraw the funding (which would be the case if all federal funding were to be denied to a city).
While Sisson’s article quotes estimates that some cities could lose “billions,” he also enumerates the many legal questions that must be answered before such an order could begin to be enforced.
• Travis County sheriff announces new "sanctuary" policy [Texas Tribune]