Texas governor pulls millions in state grant money from sanctuary county

Sanctuary Texas County
Sanctuary Texas County 02:14

AUSTIN, Texas -- Demonstrators gathered at the Texas capitol Thursday to protest a new state proposal to further punish sanctuary cities.

It just happened in Travis County, where Gov. Greg Abbott will withhold nearly $2 million in state funding.

“I have never actually seen political retribution on this scale before,” said County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

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  Sheriff Sally Hernandez CBS News

Newly-elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez campaigned to keep the sanctuary status for Travis County.

“They elected me to do the right thing for the right reason and I’m doing that,” Hernandez said.

The sherriff says she will only hold immigrants who are here illegally if they have been charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault or human smuggling.

Currently there are more than 300 sanctuary cities across the country, which do not prosecute people in this country illegally for violating immigration law.

California, Vermont and New Mexico are looking to provide sanctuary status statewide.

Hernandez says that her office acting on behalf of federal law enforcement would strain relations with the community.

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“If they are a victim or witness and they are fearful they are going to be deported and separated from their family, they are not going to come talk to us,” she said.

Abbott has threatened to have the elected sheriff removed from her position.

“Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they obey. To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist our laws be followed,” he said in his recent state of the state address.

Grant money withheld will affect several county programs, but none that deal with immigration. 

“We have women who are trying to get themselves out of the commercial sex trade, families who are trying to stay out of the Dickensian foster systems and juveniles who are suffering with trauma and drug and alcohol addiction,” Eckhardt said.

Six times over the last two days CBS News has requested an interview with the governor, but Thursday were told he was unavailable. 

As for removing the sheriff, the governor doesn’t have that authority but he is asking the legislature for that power. 

  • David Begnaud
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    David Begnaud is the lead national correspondent for "CBS This Morning" based in New York City.