Harris County Sheriff renews immigration program with ICE
At a press conference today, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman announced that he will renew the 287(g) agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was joined by ICE Director Patrick Contreras, the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, LULAC Council 4287 and the Houston Hispanic Ministers Against Crime.
The 287(g) agreement allows police officers to help ICE screen for undocumented immigrants in local jails. The partnership has been the target of protests by immigration activists.
Approximately two weeks ago, United We Dream marched from the George R. Brown Convention Center to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in downtown Houston.
Advocates say the program tears families apart and detains undocumented immigrants who are not violent offenders or hardened criminals.
“Immigrant families were hopeful in obtaining good news for the immigrant community,” said Cesar Espinosa Executive Director of FIEL, an immigrants rights organization. “We are hard working loyal people who make America Great. We will continue to fight, and we will continue to uphold our voices.”
According to the HCSO, of the over 120,000 inmates that were processed through the Harris County jail system, 167 faced deportation in 2015.
“Rhetoric that implies anything other than these facts does nothing more than to create fear and panic when there is no cause,” said Hickman. “That rhetoric erodes the relationship between law enforcement and the community we are sworn to protect.”
LULAC 4287 was at the press conference with Hickman. LULAC is the largest Latino civil rights organization.
See Hickman’s full statement below:
Today, I am announcing a renewal of the Sheriff’s Office agreement with US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, known as 287(g). In the process of making this decision, one I do not make lightly, I have listened to both the concerns of the community and the calls for continued cooperation with federal authorities.
As a long time Texas law enforcement officer, who began his career with the Houston Police Department on the East End, I am proud of the Hispanic community in Texas. The heritage of the community is part of the vibrant culture of the State of Texas, and indeed a central part of our State identity.
It is because of my respect for that culture that we must do everything that we can to build trust within the Hispanic community, while doing everything we can to protect the lives, property and personal safety of everyone in Harris County.
That is why I have ultimately made the decision to continue participating in this federal program that identifies the very individuals that prey upon innocent members of the community.
The program was enacted by Sheriff Thomas, some ten years ago, and aggressively expanded by Sheriff Adrian Garcia. I join my predecessors in recognition of its value and importance. I would point out that this program is being operated as defined by the Obama Administration.
I have evaluated the intent, cost and application of the program, and am committed to continuously reviewing the program along with our federal partners at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Let me be clear:
• There is NO street level component of the 287(g) program. My deputies DO NOT routinely ask about immigration status during traffic stops, criminal investigations, or when responding to calls for help.
• Only 9 members of my entire staff of nearly 5,000 are certified to assist ICE agents in background research and interviews of inmates brought to the Harris County Jail.
• Harris County is NOT in the business of deportation. Only federal officials have that authority, and only federal officials carry out orders for removal.
• The ONLY people housed in the Harris County Jail are housed on State criminal violations. No one overstays their sentence on behalf of ICE. Inmates are released from the County Jail as scheduled, and it is the responsibility of ICE to pick up individuals they have identified for detention.
• The program is revenue neutral. Last year the federal government reimbursed Harris County over $860,000 through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program or SCAAP.
• Out of over 120,000 inmates brought through the Harris County jail in 2015, only 167 faced subsequent deportation from Harris County, the remainder went on to TDCJ to serve their prison sentences.
It is vitally important that these facts be shared with the community at large. Rhetoric that implies anything other than these facts does nothing more than to create fear and panic when there is no cause. That rhetoric erodes the relationship between law enforcement and the community we are sworn to protect.
Ultimately this is a program that identifies CRIMINALS that are victimizing members of the Harris County community.
Offenders like Victor Reyes, who last year went on a killing spree throughout Houston and Harris County, wounding two and killing two, until ultimately engaging a Sheriff’s Deputy in a gun battle where Reyes was shot and killed. Reyes had a lengthy criminal history, and had previously been deported on multiple occasions.
Another example is Andres Munos-Munos who was charged with intoxication manslaughter when he killed Harris County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dwayne Polk in a 2013 drunk driving accident. There are other egregious examples of such crimes across the country.
Even the likes of our Governor, Gregg Abbott have encouraged me to renew our agreement with ICE in a letter, urging that now more than ever a need to renew our 287(g) arrangement with ICE in order to continue to protect the citizens who look to the Harris County sheriff’s Office for their safety.