He refuses to work with the immigrant community, and issues a challenge to County Commissioners
(AUSTIN, Texas) — In a tense press conference today that included media, immigrant rights advocates and ICE officials, Sheriff Greg Hamilton said that he will continue his misguided policy of complying with immigration detainers and handing people over to ICE for deportation. The sheriff also said that he would continue his policy even if the Travis County Commissioners Court votes to opt-out of the program, as dozens of local governments have done.
The sheriff and ICE first objected to having Travis County residents and immigrant rights advocates in the room, but eventually relented.
“Instead of meeting with the immigrant community and the people most affected by his decisions, the sheriff chooses to hold hands with ICE and ignore the danger he is creating in our community,” said Alejandro Caceres, Executive Director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition.
The sheriff presented cherry-picked numbers from ICE that do not match ICE’s own data about who is deported from Travis County. He made dubious claims about all immigrants being potentially “dangerous criminals.” This is an irresponsible message that has found an audience with some impressionable people.
“Right after the sheriff’s conference, I actually got what you could call a ‘hate call’,” said Caceres. “This person found my number and called to threaten and accuse me of all sorts of things. Obviously he has heard what the sheriff is saying about immigrants. It’s irresponsible and it divides and endangers us all.”
The sheriff’s claims don’t add up.
“What the sheriff said today about the people he turns over to ICE is just not true,” said Amelia Ruiz Fischer. “When a respected, non-partisan research house like the Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse presents data it has gathered and analyzed over the course of two years, and that data proves completely the opposite of what Sheriff Hamilton told the press today, someone isn’t being honest, because the figures presented from TRAC and the sheriff just cannot be reconciled. Today, Sheriff Hamilton used fear tactics and conflated immigration enforcement with public safety to scare Travis County residents into supporting his position and to further divide our community.”
The sheriff’s deportation dragnet continues to instill fear in the immigrant community and undermines any chance of building trust between police and the community.
“Everyday, families and children are living in fear of being deported,” said Juan Belman of University Leadership Initiative. “Sheriff Hamilton needs to remember the children who suffer when deportation takes their parents away from them.”
Advocates vowed to continue the fight and said they wouldn’t stop until the program was ended in Travis County.
From Grassrootsleadership.org and the Texas Civil Rights Project.