Under Harris County’s 287g program, sheriff’s deputies along with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement are can identify inmates who are in the country illegally. Those inmates can then be deported back to their native country after their legal case is over.
Sheriff Garcia has now picked 13 community leaders of various racial and ethnic backgrounds to make recommendations about the program.
“My concern is that we run a very effective, integrity, intact program, making sure that people, although they may not agree with the program, understand how the program is being done. And that we are working everyday to make sure that concerns of racial profiling are not a part of this program.”
The sheriff wants to make it clear that the new committee does not have the power to say who will and will not be deported.
“It is ICE and immigration judges to make final determination on deportation, not the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. All we provide is a recommendation and it is up to ICE and immigration judges to make a final determination on the status of those individuals.”
The committee will be lead by Houston attorney Alberto Cardenas. Cardenas believes the sheriff’s decision to form the panel was the right one.
“When you walk into any courthouse, Supreme Court of this country, there’s an inscription that says equal justice under the law. Clearly, the sheriff has taken that to heart and made sure that the application here comes from the consent of the governed.”
Immediately after the committee was announced County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia issued as statement saying the committee was long overdue. She says the program could create suspicion, distrust and fear among some segments of the community…and the advisory panel could help avoid some of that.
Garcia says he purposely put some people on the committee who themselves don’t agree with the program. His goal is to get good advice from all segments of the community.
“Their role here will not be to whether we should abandon or continue the program. We’re continuing the program. Their advice to me will be to make sure that we are implementing the program as prescribed and envisioned by ICE and by me.”
Since the program being nearly two years ago Sheriff Garcia says the department has referred more than 20-thousand people to immigrations officials and judges as possibly being illegal.