New immigration program sparks protests

HOUSTON Outside of the Houston Police Officers Union headquarters, a small group of protestors were trying to make a lot of noise. Their concern is the president of the union and what he wants, Namely for the city's participation in a federal program called 287-G. Part of that program allows officers on the street to ask essentially anyone about their immigration status.

"If immigrants are afraid or lose trust in the police they will be afraid to come forward both as victims of crimes and as witnesses of crimes," said Cesar Espinoza with America for All.

But that is not what Houston Police Officer's Union President Gary Blankenship says is his intent.

"In no way are we advocating that we just have go out here and have open season on checking people for immigration status," he said. "We want these as tools involving criminal investigations."

He says the death of Officer Rodney Johnson is an example. The man who was arrested for killing Johnson was a criminal illegal who'd been deported and snuck back into the US.

"We need to get this undesirable element of criminals out of this country," Blankenship said.

But the protestors fear giving the police that kind of power will have unintended consequences.

"The police will be feared as much as those who are committing the crimes," said Maria Jimenez with America for All.

The city of Houston does not take part in any of the 287-G programs. However it has applied to get more information on illegal immigrants in its jail. Harris County has been using the program inside of its jail facilities.

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