A Texas sheriff chooses lawlessness. Gov. Greg Abbott says that's not acceptable and he pledges to crack down on so-called Sanctuary cities. In this case, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is wrong, and Abbott is right. Sheriff Valdez's disdain of federal immigration policy isn't just cause for ignoring the law.
"Gov. Greg Abbott, targeting ‘sanctuary city' policies on immigration, warned Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez on Monday to back down from a policy change on federal immigration detention requests," The Dallas Morning News reported last week.
In that letter, Abbott charged, "Your refusal to fully participate in a federal law enforcement program intended to keep dangerous criminals off the streets leaves the state no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans."
Specifically, Valdez has decided not to hold illegal immigrants in her jail, awaiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), if the person has reached his or her release date.
She and her staff call it a minor change in policy
But here's the thing - it's not her policy to change. Federal law says all illegal immigrants in jail on other charges must be held for 48 hours past their release date, in order to allow ICE to investigate the charges and whether that person should be deported.
Valdez claims it only applies to illegal immigrants charged with lesser crimes. But who decides which crimes are lesser? And this brings us to one of the most disturbing aspects of this issue. There's no written policy. It's all decided, she said, on a "case-by-case" basis.
That's wrong - very wrong. First, it's wrong because that's not how the Rule of Law works. It's not how the justice system works. Valdez has, in effect, taken upon herself one of the most fearsome powers of the Texas justice system - deciding who is jailed and who isn't. And she's decided she can exercise that power without answering to anyone.
That's a power sure to be abused.
Second, Valdez's policy is wrong because legislating isn't her job - she's there to enforce the law, not make it.
Of course our immigration policy is broken. It's sorely in need of reform. But those reforms should be crafted by the people we elect to do that job. The legislative process should be transparent. That's how law is made - not behind closed doors in the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.
In the meantime, Abbott has suggested some measure the Texas Legislature can take to ensure that no Texas cities are so-called sanctuary cities. These measures include holding the taxpayers in such cities accountable for the increased health care and education costs of those policies, and allowing victims of violent crime to sue the counties that free criminal illegal immigrants.
As Abbott wrote to Valdez, "At a minimum, Texas must pass laws that prohibit any policy or action like yours that promotes sanctuary to people in this state illegally."
The governor is right. As he wrote, deciding not to enforce the law is a "dangerous path."