Yesterday, the assembly room of the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court was teeming with citizens who came to witness the proceedings on the county’s partnership with Immigration and Customs Officials (ICE).
Section 287g of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act permits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deputize non-federal law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration law.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn sent a letter to the board supporting 287g’s renewal. In it, he stated that 287g “allows local detention officers to be certified to check the immigration status of inmates who could be in the country illegally.”
Waybourn specified since it is an “additional duty assignment” the only cost incurred is through paperwork, and the DHS provides all the necessary equipment.
Functionally, the agreement allows ICE to pass off the enforcement responsibility to local law enforcement when determining immigration status.
Under 287g, the local police still have the ability to choose how much they police the statute. For example, there is a lot of belief they act just as ICE does, “rounding illegal immigrants up.”
However, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said in the letter the 287g program is only used for individuals arrested for “Class B misdemeanors and above.” In other words, the individuals at-risk of finding themselves in ICE custody because of the agreement are illegal immigrants who are arrested for a criminal offense falling in that range.
Waybourn added of the program’s benefits, “This program at almost zero cost, gives Tarrant County 24-hour coverage, bringing full accountability of the law.”
After an individual subject to the 287g jurisdiction goes through the local court’s process, “ICE is notified and as a general rule they pick up the subject within 12 hours,” Waybourn stated.
A list of current (as of the letter’s writing) inmates under ICE custody with the 287g program was also included in the letter. It totaled 280 individuals with offenses ranging from homicide (11 cases), to assault (70 cases), to DWI (65 cases), and drugs/narcotics (67 cases).
The five-member body voted to extend the agreement between Tarrant County and DHS for a year by a 3-2 vote. County Judge Glen Whitley joined fellow Republicans, and commissioners, Gary Fickes and J.D. Johnson. The two Democrat commissioners, Roy Charles Brooks and Devan Allen, voted against the measure.
Tarrant County is the largest county in Texas with a 287g program.
The meeting quickly turned helter-skelter as attendees both in opposition to and supporting 287g made their stances known.
A member of United Fort Worth said in a Facebook Live video before the meeting that they want to see 287g discontinued in Tarrant County. But more specifically, they at least want “more transparency from the Sheriff’s Department.”
“We’re here doing our best to get this transparency to really get to the core of what this program is doing here to our community,” the United Fort Worth spokesman in the video added.
About the program’s transparency, Waybourn stated in his letter, “Information about 287g is publicly available. Reports to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards are available online. There is an annual public meeting to discuss the program. Additionally, the TCSO Command Staff is more than willing to discuss 287g with any members of the public.”
About a week ago, RAICES held a “March to End 287g” outside of the commissioner’s court.
During a Facebook Live video, a spokeswoman said, “We are here in solidarity, supporting our community members — supporting our undocumented members — ensuring that everyone in this county feels safe.”
On June 10, Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), along with other Tarrant County state representatives, sent a letter to the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court advocating for the renewal of the 287g program.
“Re-authorization of this successful program is crucial to the public safety of Tarrant County,” Tinderholt stated.
He went on to say, “There are documented instances of individuals with 13 DWI and 14 assault with bodily injury charges, indecency with and sexual assault of a child, among other heinous acts who have been stopped due to an immigration hold.”
About those individuals, Tinderholt said, “Simply, these are not the individuals we want released back into our communities.”
Praising the success of the program, Tinderholt added, “In the past, many of these individuals have slipped through the cracks, and due to the diligent work of our sheriff’s department that is no longer the case.”
President Trump indicated an increased focus on deportations from ICE on Monday night.
Illegal immigration levels continue to rise, with over 144,000 apprehensions in May alone.
Law enforcement officials view 287g as a valuable tool at both the local and federal levels.
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.