HOUSTON, Texas – The Harris County sheriff pulled a head fake on his criminal alien sanctuary supporters when he ended the immigration 287(g) program but did not change any policy affecting how prisoners are handed over to federal agents.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez finally delivered on his campaign promise to end the county’s participation in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program, a statement from the sheriff obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed. The voluntary program provides a methodology for local law enforcement to work hand-in-hand with immigration officials to remove criminal aliens from jails.
“After thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to opt out of the voluntary 287(g) program,” Sheriff Gonzalez told the Houston Chronicle. “We’ll still be cooperating with local, state and federal authorities as we always have, we just won’t have our manpower resources inside the jail doing that.”
Amnesty and sanctuary policy supporters quickly responded–cheering the sheriff’s actions as a victory for their cause.
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) February 22, 2017
While the move might sound like the sheriff is delivering on his often-repeated pledge to end the program, the department’s policies regarding handing over criminal aliens to ICE officials does not appear to be changing.
“We will continue to honor ICE detainers, and ICE is welcome to have an agent located within the jail building,” Harris County Sheriff’s Office Public Affairs Director said in an email to Breitbart Texas. When asked how long the department will hold an inmate for ICE agents to pick up, Spencer said, “In our experience, ICE typically takes custody of those with detainers shortly after they are given notification.”
It does not appear the move by Gonzalez will put the office at odds with the State of Texas or the federal government regarding continued funding for the county. Gonzalez has stated he will continue cooperation with immigration authorities, a requirement to receive state and federal law enforcement grants.
Gonzalez claimed that he is going along with 251 Texas counties that do not currently participate in the 287(g) program. However, the trend of county sheriffs in Texas is moving the other direction.
“We have more than 14 county sheriffs in the Texas Coastal Bend region that are participating in, or applying for, the 287(g) program,” Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback told Breitbart Texas Tuesday night. “Government officials respond to a crisis in various ways. It is very sad that Sheriff Gonzalez is choosing this way.”
“His decision to leave the program illustrates a sharp divide between the ways that other sheriffs are choosing to work with immigration authorities,” Louderback continued. “The counties contiguous to Harris County are moving towards more cooperation with immigration authorities, not less.”
The sharp divide could not be more apparent when comparing two Texas counties–Tarrant and Travis.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn (R) announced earlier this month that his department is applying for the 287(g) program. He said the program would provide training to his deputies to help them properly process criminal aliens when ICE agents are not readily available. “If somebody comes in the jail on a Friday evening and bonded out on a Sunday, (ICE) missed it. They weren’t here,” Sheriff Waybourn said. “When (illegal aliens) commit crimes against our people; it becomes our business.”
The move by the Tarrant County Sheriff is in sharp contrast to the action taken this month by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez who now faces the loss of state funding after changing her department’s policies regarding honoring immigration detainers, Breitbart Texas reported. Her refusal to cooperate with immigration officials except in a small number of circumstances will cost the taxpayers of Travis County $1.5 million in state law enforcement grants after Governor Greg Abbott pulled the plug on her funding.
Under new leadership, the Department of Homeland Security is looking to expand the 287(g) program, particularly in border states. The Obama Administration downplayed the program in favor of a less effective “Secure Communities” program. DHS Secretary John Kelly rescinded that program and the Obama Administration’s Priority Enforcement Program in an order signed on February 17.