SOCA: Immigration & Public Safety

Most of my job is not political or even very theoretical. At the municipal level, you want us to help make day-to-day government work. You want us to help make sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up, and that we’re all kept as safe as possible.

With respect to public safety you should know that Austin is one of the safest cities in the country. One of the big reasons we’re safe is because the people in our community trust our public safety officers: our police and our sheriff’s department. That trust is exhibited when everyone who is being victimized in our city feels comfortable seeking law enforcement protection.

When witnesses to crimes are willing to come forward. When our law enforcement personnel are welcome and comfortable going anywhere in this city and into any neighborhood in this city. This specifically includes the people and places where crime and victimization might most likely otherwise exist.
This level of trust is earned over time.
And now, it’s facing a threat.

Here’s what’s really going on, Police Chief Manley and our Sheriff have told us what we need to do keep our community as safe as possible. Their advice is the same as we got from our former police chief. And, so you don’t think that this advice is just some progressive outlier, you need to know it’s the same advice given to us by the national association of Big Cities Chiefs.
Importantly, our local law enforcement officers follow all federal and state law. Of course we do.

Our Sheriff turns over, everyone, to the federal government that the law requires her to turn over. She even turns over some serious criminals even when not required by law. If the federal immigration service wants someone held in our county jail because it thinks they’re dangerous, all they have to do is to get a warrant. It’s that easy.
But what our Sheriff doesn’t do is participate in a voluntary program that would have her detain and turn over others without warrants. We don’t have the resources to have our local public safety officers act as federal immigration officers, or federal environmental officers or federal tax officers.
Most importantly, our public safety officers do what they do because they believe it makes us safe.

I trust our public safety professionals because they’re keeping us safe. I ask my community to trust our police and that means I trust them, too. This is not political for me. It’s simple and it’s about public safety.
Now, our State and Federal leaders are offering some money to us if we are willing to reject the advice of our public safety professionals and instead affirmatively choose to make ourselves less safe.

That gives us a horrible choice. The question we face as a community is simple, at what price do we sell our safety?

Now, it’s the County and not the City that is being directly presented with this question because the City doesn’t detain criminals. It is the County that runs our jails. But the County is now smack dab in the middle of this. And as you might expect, and for the same reasons I trust Chief Manley, I trust Sheriff Hernandez to know how best to do her job.

But I’ll tell you, I sure do wish we could all talk about this without all the politics, acrimony, and emotion of national political issues.

This will be an ongoing conversation. There will be, I’m sure, new developments. But no legislature and no election can change who we are and the values we as a community hold dear.

Just as we can see our skyline rise over what used to be a sleepy college town and still recognize the spirit and soul of Austin everywhere we look, the world can completely lose its mind and we’re still gonna be Austin. No matter what happens, we will resolutely, unapologetically remain Austin.