The first Latino to be the sheriff of a major city recently announced her re-election campaign with a bit of a twist: Her office would no longer by complying with a federal law that requires law enforcement agencies to hold arrested undocumented immigrants beyond the dates they’re to be released.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez decided to change the policy for her department that was mandated by the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants arrested on minor charges for an additional two days, the Dallas Morning News reported. Hundreds of other jurisdictions in other states with heavy undocumented immigrant populations have already taken similar action, but Texas has come under scrutiny because it borders Central America, where the U.S. government has been deporting the immigrant group, according to a new report by the Guardian.
Valdez made the decision with her department’s best interests at heart, she said, knowing that it may not make her more popular, especially during an election year. “No matter what we do, someone is going to get upset,” she told the Dallas Morning News. “We can’t base our decisions on who is going to get upset with us. We have to base our decisions on what is best for the whole.”
Sheriff Lupe Valdez stands with her troops in support of law enforcement. They have on their flashing lights. pic.twitter.com/2IHSd1vgIX
— Rebecca Lopez (@rlopezwfaa) September 4, 2015
There has been an increased emphasis on immigration in the U.S., especially as it pertains to next year’s presidential election. Current Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has campaigned to “Make America Great Again” by ramping up rhetoric as it pertains to immigration, has famously said of Mexicans: “They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.”
Trump last month visited Dallas, where he proclaimed, “We are a dumping ground for the rest of the world,” referring to the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. He has proposed to build a wall to keep immigrants from illegally entering the U.S.
The policy change in Dallas was based on the needs of Valdez's jurisdiction and not federal needs, she said. She would rather exercise discretion instead of being forced to comply with an ICE law that she says focuses more on committing civil or administrative violations instead of actual crimes.
“Immigration is a federal law. I don’t know why they keep expecting me to take care of federal issues,” she said. “We make our decisions based on reason, safety and what’s best for the community.”