In Austin, Sheriff's deputies lack sufficient body armor due to ICE "resistance"

Here’s a story which demonstrates how national “movements” wind up having real-world impacts on the local level. It’s become quite popular for officials, both elected and among law enforcement, to #RESIST Trump by refusing to accept detainers from ICE when they arrest criminal illegal aliens. The federal government has been pushing back on this in various ways, but it’s also happening at the state level. In Texas, for instance, Governor Abbot previously established a series of grants which would be used to purchase upgraded, “rifle-resistant” body armor for law enforcement officers.

Given the number of police and sheriffs who have been killed in Texas over the past few years, some in ambush situations with powerful weapons, this was a widely popular move. But in Travis County, composed mostly of the City of Austin, the new armor will not be received as things stand now. One requirement to qualify for the grant was that the law enforcement agency had to provide a letter stating that they would honor ICE detainers. Austin’s Sheriff has thus far refused to sign such a letter. (KXAN News)

Travis County Sheriff’s Office deputies do not have rifle-resistance vests because Sheriff Sally Hernandez will not commit to hold all arrested undocumented immigrants for deportation.

In January, Governor Abbott announced the state would fund $23 million in grants to purchase 33,000 vests for more than 450 law enforcement departments. Every agency that applied for vests received them. Travis County did not apply for the grant because one condition from the governor’s office required the agency to “sign a letter confirming compliance with ICE detainer requests both now and during the grant term of at least one year,” according to Travis County Commissioner’s Court records.

The deadline to apply for the vests was Sept. 6, 2017, and Travis County officials were still thinking of applying days before the deadline.

Sheriff Hernandez is attempting to claim something of a technicality here when explaining why this didn’t get done, but the explanation doesn’t make any sense. She’s saying that she didn’t want to sign the letter until the fate of SB 4 was decided. That’s a new law passed in 2016 and scheduled to go into effect last year which required Sheriff’s departments to honor ICE detainers. But it was challenged in court and a final ruling hasn’t been obtained yet.

Hernandez is claiming that if the law goes into effect she would be willing to sign the letter, but not until then. What’s the logic behind that? There’s nothing stopping any LEOs from honoring ICE detainers without that law in effect. It’s only after the law is enacted that the letter would be essentially pointless. This can’t be blamed on the court case because there would be nothing stopping the Sheriff from signing that letter now except for her desire to #RESIST.

And the result is that most of the peers of these Sheriff’s deputies around the state will have rifle-resistant body armor, but the ones working under Sheriff Hernandez won’t. That must make them feel a lot better everytime they go out on a call.