According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin, a recent ICE raid in Austin, Texas, was payback for a new “sanctuary” policy from Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez designed to limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials. As former American Immigration Lawyers Association president David Leopold tweeted earlier today, “a B.F.D. if true”:
In a back-and-forth between ICE agent Laron Bryant, Judge Andrew Austin said he and another federal magistrate were briefed by ICE in late January about the upcoming raids. They were told that the agency would be conducting operations in the Austin area as a “result of the sheriff’s new policy” and because a meeting between ICE and Hernandez in January “didn’t go very well,” according to an audio transcript obtained by the Observer. Bryant confirmed that was the case. The Austin American-Statesman first reported the story.
In February, Hernandez implemented a policy limiting her department’s cooperation with detainer requests from ICE to undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes, such as murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking. Such policies have attracted opposition from the Trump administration, Governor Greg Abbott and other Republican lawmakers.
What ICE has always preferred is for local law enforcement to hold all undocumented immigrants—even those arrested for minor reasons, like traffic offenses—in jail for them to pick up later. But this is a waste of local resources and destroys the fragile trust between immigrant communities and police. If members of the community don’t trust law enforcement, they are less likely to report crimes, and that makes the entire community less safe for all. So, knowing where she lives best, Sheriff Hernandez took action—and apparently, so did ICE.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, “ICE characterized the operation as routine and said the Austin area was not being targeted.” But as immigration advocates have long known, what ICE says and what ICE does are two different things. Donald Trump said he would be targeting only “bad hombres” and violent criminals for arrest and deportation, but according to the Statesman, 28 of the 51 immigrants rounded up in the February raid didn’t even have a criminal history.
While a retaliatory action from ICE would be truly vile, it would not be unprecedented. Just look at the case of Dreamer Daniela Vargas earlier this month:
Last week, officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 22-year-old Dreamer Daniela Vargas, a Mississippi resident who has been living in the United States since she was 7. But for a temporary lapse in her status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, Vargas has been everything America says it wants in an immigrant: well-educated, ambitious, law-abiding, and patriotic. It should surprise nobody that she is about to be deported.
Vargas was taken into ICE custody just moments after she publicly criticized the Trump administration’s immigration raids, a move that makes it appear as if she was swept up by the immigration agency on account of what she said to the press. ICE agents have confirmed that Vargas was taken into custody “during a targeted immigration enforcement action.”
This is just the kind of vindictiveness to expect from an administration that would so cruelly target immigrant moms and dads trying to provide for their families while pulling crap like this.