Harris County extends controversial program

October 27, 2009 10:42:43 AM PDT
Protesters on both sides of the immigration issue converged on the Harris County commissioners court meeting Tuesday morning. Inside, commissioners decided the county will continue to take part in a controversial immigration screening program.

It's an issue that has invoked a lot of emotion, as was evidence by the number of people who were inside and outside commissioners' court. The room where commissioners meet was so packed that people were turned away and told to listen to the meeting from overflow rooms.

What drew people to commissioners court on Tuesday was 287-G, a federal program that would essentially deputize local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. It gives local law enforcement the legal right to screen inmates inside the local jail system and place detainers on illegal immigrants, turning them over to ICE agents for deportation.

Harris County implemented the program last year and on Tuesday, Sheriff Adrian Garcia told commissioners he has eight deputies currently working in the program. He asked commissioners for their support to extend it for another three years, which they did.

People on both sides of the issue demonstrated outside commissioners court before the meeting.

"It actually puts their family in the predicament that could cause them to get separated and that was the people themselves by coming in illegally," said a supporter of 287-G with whom we spoke. "And then they put their family in jeopardy a second time by committing a crime."

"Hate violence against immigrants, policies such as these are going to continue taking place and families are going to continue to be separated," countered an opponent.

Many questions were raised during Tuesday's meeting, including the cost of the program and who would be targeted, as well as the legal liability to the county. We'll follow this story throughout the day and will have the latest on Eyewitness News later today and here on abc13.com

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