While some Texas sheriffs are making headlines by refusing to cooperate with immigration enforcement officials, 18 sheriffs signed up to increase their efforts by joining the 287(g) immigration enforcement partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The sheriffs are making the announcement on Monday at a formal signing ceremony at the Texas Sheriff’s Association conference in Grapevine.
“The 287(g) program is about identifying criminality, not nationality,” Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback said in an interview with Breitbart Texas prior to the ceremony. “The common bond in professional law enforcement is a public safety partnership and those who stand here today have chosen the best possible path to protecting their communities.”
Under the ICE 287(g) program, local law enforcement officials enter into a partnership with the federal immigration agency to improve communications and more effectively find criminal aliens in custody. The program allows ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers to quickly identify criminal aliens in custody and remove them from the U.S. when local officials are finished with them.
ICE officials provide training and computer equipment to local law enforcement enabling them access to several Department of Homeland Security databases. “This access provides us with much more access to criminal data,” Louderback said. His department recently completed the 287(g) training program and began utilizing the highly secured data terminal.
Sheriffs from the following counties were present to announce their new 287(g) partnerships:
- Aransas County
- Calhoun County
- Chambers County
- DeWitt County
- Galveston County
- Goliad County
- Jackson County
- Lavaca County
- Lubbock County
- Matagorda County
- Montgomery County
- Refugio County
- Smith County
- Tarrant County
- Victoria County
- Walker County
- Waller County
- Wharton County
The sheriff’s formally signed the partnership agreement during a ceremony where Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan joined Sheriff Louderback in formally welcoming the Texas counties to the program.
“I’m proud to stand alongside these sheriffs who are taking decisive action to join ICE in an important effort to enhance the safety of their communities,” Director Homan said in a written statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “By partnering with ICE’s 287(g) program, each of these counties will be able to identify criminal aliens in their jails and turn them over to ICE, once their criminal process is complete. It is common sense partnerships like these that help law enforcement achieve our mutual goals, and I’m encouraged by the increased interest from law enforcement professionals who seek to join this program and protect public safety.”
Lubbock County and the Carrolton Police Department are also listed as 287(g) partners with ICE.
In February, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales withdrew from the partnership to fulfill a campaign promise, Breitbart Texas reported. However, the newly sworn-in sheriff changed none of his policies regarding cooperating with ICE officials.
“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.”
“We will continue to honor ICE detainers, and ICE is welcome to have an agent located within the jail building,” a Harris County Sheriff’s Office public affairs spokesman 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.”
“His decision to leave the program illustrates a sharp divide between the ways that other sheriffs are choosing to work with immigration authorities,” Louderback told Breitbart Texas at the time. “The counties contiguous to Harris County are moving towards more cooperation with immigration authorities, not less.”
In Travis County (Austin), Sheriff Sally Hernandez made national headlines when she not only delivered on her campaign promise to withdraw from the cooperative program but to enacted her own sanctuary policy by refusing ICE detainers in all but very few cases. “I just don’t think you solve the criminal justice process by deporting them,” then-candidate Hernandez told The Texas Tribune during a sit-down interview in her office in September 2016. “We talk about being progressive. I believe we need to lead the way.”
Governor Greg Abbott quickly responded by stripping $1.5 million in state law enforcement grants from the county.
In March, Travis County led the nation in criminal aliens released according to an ICE Declined Detainer Outcome Report. Of the 206 total criminal aliens released by sanctuary jurisdictions across the country, Travis County alone accounted for 142 of the 206 released inmates listed in the report.
ICE officials said the addition of the 18 Texas counties brings the total number of active agreements to 60. This is double the number of agreements in effect during 2016. Over the past four years, only six new aggreements were put in place by the Obama Administration.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.