Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Cuts to funding endanger sanctuary cities

Chelsea Purgahn

Senate Bill 4, which would allow the state to end funding to sanctuary cities, has passed in the Texas Senate. As it goes to the House, Texans are reminded that the law, although it meets the legal minimum, is not equivalent to an ethical or moral minimum.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, introduced SB 4 in response to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s announcement that Travis County would not blindly honor voluntary detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hernandez cited drain on county resources, high risk of liability and community safety as reasons for her decision. 

Since Hernandez’s announcement, Governor Gregory Abbott has done everything he can to lash out at Travis County’s ability to provide its citizens with criminal justice services. If Abbott continues, he could cut more than $52 million that Travis County receives in federal and state grants.  

As of now, Abbott has slashed a whopping $1.5 million due to Travis County by cutting Office of the Governor grants, a mix of state and federal funding. The majority of these cuts do not directly affect the sheriff’s office.

Should SB 4 pass the House, Abbott will not only be legally allowed to not only cut all $52 million dollars in funding to Travis County, but also to remove an elected official, Sheriff Hernandez, from office if she does not change her policy. 

 “(The cuts) do not impact the Sheriff’s Office other than (that) there is the possibility that defendants that are going through diversion courts could instead have a jail sentence,” Jessica Rio, the county executive with the Planning and Budget office, wrote in an email. “In some of those cases, this could also impact the State’s jail system.”

Abbott’s unethical political posturing has already affected 13 different programs and 18 positions that support those programs. These programs include initiatives like the Veterans Court Program, the Prostitution Prevention Program, programs for juveniles serving probation, Parenting in Recovery and the Family Drug Treatment Court, none of which are under Hernandez’s supervision. Although Gov. Abbott claims these funding cuts are intended to hamper the Sheriff Office’s new policy, most of the revoked funding is used to staff specialty courts, like the Veterans Court and Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC).

The FDTC was created as a way to provide treatment to parents battling addiction and facing Child Protective Services action, as an alternative to prosecution. On average, it serves 55 families a year, including 75 children who would otherwise be totally reliant on Texas’s failed CPS department and removed from their parents.

Laura Peveto, the Travis County Office of Children’s Services prevention and intervention manager, says her office is doing everything possible to continue providing services, but shared her concern.

 “It’s really unclear right now,” Peveto said. “It gives you this state of unease because you’re not really certain what may or may not be cut.” 

Gov. Abbott is not cutting funds that enforce immigration laws. Instead, he is using his power to hurt our most disenfranchised people, those most in need of services. 

Although the county is working to apply for federal grants directly, so far, the only federal response to Hernandez’s policies has been a rash of ICE raids nationwide, including ones targeting Travis County residents.

The actions of our governor and ICE have created a state of panic, that in and of itself, is unethical to the point of abuse of power. Eliminating programs that help our most vulnerable, veterans and children of drug addicted parents fails to punish the Sheriff’s Office. It is simply cruel. 

MacLean is an advertising and geography sophomore from Austin. She is a senior columnist. Follow MacLean on Twitter @maclean_josie

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Cuts to funding endanger sanctuary cities