Austin Police Shared Data With Federal Immigration Officials More Than 500 Times In 2018

Mar 1, 2019

The Austin Police Department released information to federal immigration officers 581 times in 2018 and asked one detained person about their immigration status, according to a report from Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

The report is the first since Austin City Council members asked police to publish data showing how and why city resources are used for federal immigration enforcement.

During 2018, APD spent $3,969 and 72 hours of staff time assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Police said they gave ICE 581 documents, including 194 police reports. (In the memo from Manley to the mayor and City Council, however, there is a discrepancy in the total number of documents turned over; police reported a total of 581, but KUT counted 541. The APD did not respond by deadline to a request to clarify.)

APD also handed over booking photos and utility reports.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed in 2017 a so-called “sanctuary cities law,” also known as Senate Bill 4, which requires local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officers. The law also prohibits police departments from having a policy restricting officers from asking someone their immigration status once they’ve been detained.

Austin Council Member Greg Casar said in an emailed statement that these numbers validate concerns immigrant communities had about how SB 4 might change their interactions with police.

“These instances of ICE collaboration may have been forced by SB 4, some of them may reflect a misuse of the City’s power to support deportations,” Casar said. “Our community deserves a government that is truly responsive to the needs of our immigrant neighbors, and deserves transparency from the City.”

Manley opposed the bill during discussions at the Texas Legislature in 2017.

“[M]y greatest concern is what this will do to police-community relations,” Manley said at the time. He did not respond to a request to comment today on whether numbers in this report validate that fear.

Local immigrants rights groups expressed outrage and asked for more information Friday.

“This report, released with almost no context on a Friday afternoon, contains troubling data that could reveal a widespread pattern of cooperation between Austin law enforcement and ICE, the federal immigration enforcement agency,” said José Garza, executive director of the nonprofit Workers Defense Project. “We call on the Austin Police Department to immediately provide clarity on the policies and circumstances that lead to the sharing of the data detailed in the report.”

The next report from APD is scheduled to be released on June 1, 2019.