Activists Oppose Renewal Of Program That Identifies Undocumented Immigrants In Harris County

Sheriff Ron Hickman says he has made adjustments to the program.


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A report released by the ACLU analyzes the deaths of eight undocumented immigrants who died being under the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency between 2010 and 2012.
The 287 (g) program enables the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to transfer custody of certain undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A program that identifies undocumented immigrants at the Harris County jail and that may lead to them being deported is up for renewal this year.

The program is called 287 (g) and it allows the Harris County Sheriff's Office to transfer custody of undocumented immigrants with criminal records to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE.

The program is scheduled to be renewed in June and Sheriff Ron Hickman is reviewing it.

According to Hickman, an average of nine people a month were deported between January of 2015 and September of that same year due to the 287 (g) program.

"It’s not a high volume activity and it only affects those people who are placed in the Harris County jail, charged with offenses of Texas’ law and eventually convicted of a felony or better," Hickman said after the Harris County Commissioners meeting held on March 29th.

That is because now the sheriff's office only transfers undocumented inmates to ICE after they have been convicted.

And Hickman notes he has made another important adjustment to the program.

If ICE fails to retrieve inmates it's interested in, the Sheriff's Office releases them as scheduled.

That didn't happen before, since the county jail could hold inmates for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release.

But, regardless of the adjustments, immigration activists still fear the program can cause the deportation of people who didn't commit serious crimes.

Mike Espinoza is with the Service Employees International Union, SEIU.

"There’s a key decision happening in the month of June, so we wanted to bring this up with ample time to make sure there’s, there’s lots of time to have dialogue with our elected officials," Espinoza said.

This was after he and three other people brought up the issue of whether or not to renew the 287 (g) during the time the Commissioners Court allotted to public speakers.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett acknowledged it is a complicated issue.

"It really gets to the heart of the whole immigration battle. If you are in this country illegally and you come under the purview of law enforcement, law enforcement then feels like they have an obligation to report that person," Emmett said.

Hickman plans to meet with ICE officials and immigration advocates in the coming weeks to discuss the program.

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