The Travis County Sheriff's office is asking for a bigger budget, but some immigrant rights groups aren't too happy about that.
Sheriff Greg Hamilton went before commissioners Wednesday asking for a budget increase, which could be used to add more mental health officers, update their property room and crime lab. Not everyone thinks that is where the money will actually be used.
Travis County Sheriff Gregg Hamilton was greeted with protestors at Wednesday's budget hearing. Among them, Maria Del Carmen Rodriguez, who tells us how she feels the Hispanic community is being treated.
"Like disposable people that we can use at any time and after we use them, then we throw them away," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez came to the United States when she was 17 years old. She would like to see a better future for undocumented immigrants coming to live here. But says a program called secure communities, is holding them back.
"Anytime someone is booked, their fingerprints are taken and they are sent to ICE. Then ICE says we want to hold anyone with a Spanish last name," Rodriguez said.
It's a program that immigrant rights groups say is causing more harm than good.
"Every county and city and state has the right to opt out of this program. In fact we've seen 125 counties and states all across the country opt out and say they don't want any part of this program because it separates families, costs money and opens counties up to lawsuits," Rodriguez said.
She says 73 percent of those deported have no criminal record. When asking Travis County Sheriff Gregg Hamilton what a budget increase would be used for, he said, "We're going to reach out for mental health officers because we have changed the way we have been doing business. We're trying to upgrade our property room and our crime lab and get individuals out there moving."
Immigrant rights groups say if Travis County opted out of the secure communities program, the sheriff's office would have the money they need.
Data from immigration and customs enforcement says an average of 19 immigrants are deported from Travis County each week. Something Alejandro Caceres from Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition thinks will continue to rise.
"If they increase the budget, they are themselves guilty and responsible for the thousand deportations that will happen next year," Caceres said.
"I think what we're saying is increasing the budget just keeps the status quo and the status quo is having one of the highest deportation rates in the country," Rodriguez said
The Travis County Sheriff's Office says they are not the ones who do deportations. They continued to emphasize that the money is needed for five mental health counselors and three additional crime scene specialists.??