Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is leading an effort to block proposed budget cuts in the 287(g) program that has helped local law enforcements officers identify more than 275,000 illegal immigrants in their custody, The Houston Chronicle reported.
In President Obama's 2013 budget requested $17 million reduction-27 percent- for 287(g) operations by law enforcement agencies across the country.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano argued that "Secure Communities" another immigration-status screening program using fingerprinting, can also meet the goals of 287(g). Napolitano said Secure Communities is more "consistent, efficent and cost-effective".
Garcia and Texas lawmakers led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin say Napolitano's decision would be devestating to local law enforcement.
"Elimination of 287(g) would mean the failure to refer to ICE for possible removal many violent, dangerous, experienced criminals who had no previous contact with ICE before being charged with a state crime in Harris County," Garcia said.
The three Texas agencies that participate in 287(g) are the Carrollton and Farners Branch Police Departments near Dallas and the Harris County's Sheriff's Office.
Garcia's office teamed with ICE in 2008 to run 287(g) at the Harris County jail. Eighteen Harris County sheriff's deputies have been trained by ICE agents on immigration law through this partnership.
The 287(g) program allows local deputies to question individuals – regardless of their crime – about their immigration status when they arrive at the jail. Deputies then can place holds, commonly known as detainers, on the inmates they deemed to be in the country illegally. Thus, when the suspected undocumented immigrants are released from jail, deputies can turn them over to ICE.
According to authorities, many illegal immigrants could continue to game the system if local law enforcement agencies are not permitted to ask questions allowed under 287(g).
Garcia said he feels “confident” that his department will not see funding cuts for its 287(g) operation in 2013. He considers it among the most productive in the nation. Still, the sheriff fears that the agency’s budget “foretells further cuts and a possible phase-out” of the program.
Rep. McCaul says the program should be expanded, not eliminated.
“This administration has once again proposed a policy that benefits dangerous criminal aliens over the law-abiding citizens of the United States,” McCaul said, adding that without 287(g) “criminal aliens will be arrested, do their time, and then be released back onto our streets instead of getting a one-way ticket out of our country.”
Read the full story in The Houston Chronicle.
Updated: Mon, Feb 20th 2012 @ 12:12pm EST