At issue: Whether to put an immigration hold on immigrants who're charged with crimes upon arrest or upon conviction. After the Sheriff created a partnership with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to shift to detention upon arrest, the number of beds taken up by immigration holds increased 400%, reports the Austin Statesman.
The Sheriff's new policy can even "lead to the deportation of family members arrested on misdemeanor charges such as traffic offenses." These are people who, if the ICE "hold" didn't exist, a judge would have evaluated for release eligibility based on flight risk and the actual danger the pose to the public. (For 62% of those of those with immigration holds, said the Statesman, their highest offense is a misdemeanor.)
So by definition, the increased number of holds represent people who a judge would otherwise have considered safe to release on bail. To me that's a misuse of county jail resources, filling beds with people who pose no danger that are needed for more serious offenders.
Sheriff Hamilton says he'd be "derelict" to change the policy, but he's not an island unto himself. If I were on the Travis County Commissioners' Court, I'd sure be reticent to finance any extra funding requests for the jail while the Sheriff is intentionally, needlessly exacerbating the overcrowding problem. And as a Travis County voter, I'll certainly feel the same way about any future requests for budget hikes or jail bond approvals as long as this is going on.
See Related Grits Posts:
- Add surname profiling to overcrowding as reason to oppose ICE in Travis jail
- Federal dollars from immigrant detainees aren't worth intangible costs at Travis jail
- Immigration and county jails: Are high costs caused by unfunded mandates or poor choices by county sheriffs?
- Feds want to set up shop in county jails, but commissioners ask who will pay?