Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott is putting ideology over the safety of his constituents, deliberately endangering victims of domestic violence in a crude attempt to punish a county sheriff for disagreeing with Donald Trump's draconian immigration policies.
One of Donald Trump’s key promises upon taking office was to crack down on “sanctuary cities” — jurisdictions which offer protection to undocumented immigrants and forbid law enforcement officials from asking for a person’s immigration status or sharing their local data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Despite the overheated rhetoric, studies show that in sanctuary cities, crime tends to be lower and trust in police is greater.
At the federal level, Trump’s plan is probably unconstitutional. More alarmingly, it appears to be galvanizing Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to go to extreme lengths to achieve his anti-immigrant goals in his state.
Sally Hernandez, Democratic sheriff of Travis County, Texas, — which includes the state capital of Austin — recently enacted a policy that makes Austin the first sanctuary city in Texas. Under the new rules, the sheriff’s office will no longer comply with ICE requests to detain suspects unless the federal government has a warrant or the suspect has committed a violent crime.
After issuing an angry threat against Hernandez’s job, Abbott announced that he would cancel $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to Travis County — including funding to rehabilitate drug-addicted prostitutes, prevent domestic violence, and provide services to victimized families.
The governor is willing to jeopardize the safety of millions of his own constituents, including children, in a crude and baffling attempt to force the implementation of racial profiling of immigrants.
And he followed that move with an ominous warning:
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 1, 2017
This is not the first time that a Texas governor has tried to extort local officials: In 2014, Republican Governor Rick Perry was indicted for abusing his power to attempt to force the resignation of a district attorney who had investigated his office for rigging cancer grants. A panel of elected Republican judges ultimately threw out the charges in that case.
Hernandez is an elected official. As such, her responsibility is not to the governor, but ultimately to the voters of Travis County who elected her. Abbott’s eagerness to risk grave harm to those voters, because he could not strong-arm their sheriff into bending to his own ideology on immigration policy, is despicable and frightening. And it is not normal — or at least, not until the beginning of the Trump era.
Abbott’s willful attack on the citizens of Travis County is more evidence that Trump has emboldened conservative politicians to use whatever vile methods they can concoct in order to get their way.