Screening of Illegals to Continue

Harris County Commissioners voted to continue the practice of screening jail inmates for immigration violations. Before the vote both sides of the controversial issue voiced their opinion on the matter. Pat Hernandez has the story.

The 287 (g) program was created by Congress in 1996 to enhance cooperation between local law enforcement and federal authorities. The issue lead to standing room only at Harris County Commissioners Court.

Opponents complained that it was not the duty of local law enforcement to perform federal immigration duties.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia also addressed Commissioners Court.

"Some say we should expand 287 (g) beyond the jail and have officers arrest people solely on suspicion about immigration status. I say absolutely not."

He told the court local law enforcement needs information to solve and prevent crime, and people who report crime should not fear getting arrested for immigration issues.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett didn't like opponents accusing the county of being racist in keeping the policy.

"I think that's absurd and its offensive on their part and, I don't think anybody could accuse Sheriff Garcia of being a racist. He made it real clear that everybody who comes into Harris County jail is run through the same process, and people who are in this country illegally are identified."

Under the program, more than 10-thousand suspected illegal immigrants have been referred to federal authorities. Judge Emmett says Houston's proximity to Mexico makes this a valuable tool.

"Everybody recognizes the unique circumstances of being a border state, but we're talking about people who've engaged in criminal activity, and if they've engaged in criminal activity and they find themselves in jail, and they're also here illegally, then they're gonna get turned over to ICE."

PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

 

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...