Yesterday, four of the county’s commissioners and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins approved a resolution declaring Dallas County a “Welcoming Community.” The resolution, while nonbinding, affirms the county’s stance that undocumented residents are “integral members of our community” and calls on local law enforcement agencies to “end nonessential collaborations with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
As things stand, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, whose office is the primary law enforcement agency that reports to the commissioner’s court, already adopted this policy in 2015. If used, the county could turn down detainer requests from ICE for people picked up and otherwise set to be released for violent crimes.
The DCSO is still committed to honoring ICE hold request for those accused of committing aggravated felonies. To date, the DCSO has yet to turn down a single detention request from ICE.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott — whose office did not return a request to comment on the Dallas County resolution — criticized Valdez and her policy. In the weeks after it was announced, he sent the sheriff a scolding letter, threatening to withhold grant money from his office if she didn’t renounce her department’s “sanctuary” policies. Abbott didn’t follow through, but he recently cut off $1.5 million that would’ve gone to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office after Sheriff Sally Hernandez adopted a policy of non-cooperation with federal immigration agencies.
The county’s four Democrats voted for the resolution and its lone Republican, Mike Cantrell voting against it.
Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman, the sole person to speak against a piece of the resolution Tuesday, called on the court to remove the section demanding an end to cooperation with ICE. While he agrees with making all Dallas residents feel welcome in their communities, Kleinman said, he fears the resolution could cause the city of Dallas to lose nearly $30 million in funding from the federal government.
As he spoke, many in their crowd turned their backs in protest. “We are asking to have our hands slapped,” Kleinman said of the resolution. “Please don’t put us in the position where we are named as a sanctuary city.”
A recent executive order and comments from President Donald Trump declared that his administration would cut off federal grant money from any city or other municipal unit that is deemed to be a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state,” Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly during a pre-Super Bowl interview. “If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”
Cantrell, who complained that equal time wasn’t being given to those who opposed the resolution, agreed with Kleinman, telling the court that the resolution “supports open borders and will label Dallas County as a sanctuary county.”
Jenkins insisted that the county was not trying to “poke the bear.”
“If the bear eventually comes over here,” he said of the Trump administration, “we’ll try to fight the bear. Until then, we’ll work with the bear.”
The state of Texas, beginning with senate debate Tuesday, is also considering a sanctuary cities bill that would pull state funding from counties whose jails do not fully comply with ICE detainer requests.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.