Montgomery County considering controversial immigration program

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Montgomery County's top lawman Sheriff Rand Henderson said he is considering a controversial immigration program. The agreement with the federal government is known as 287(g). Henderson said his office is just exploring the idea. He plans to meet with Immigration and Customs Enforcement next week on the matter.

Proponents of the program said it gives law enforcement more tools to help keep immigrants who've committed crimes from returning to our streets. Opponents argue the program leads to racial profiling and alienates the undocumented population.

"You've got to remember. This isn't a go roundup anyone from the streets. This is a purely jail program," said Sheriff Henderson. "So they've already been arrested for some criminal offense. They've been placed in our county jails. It's a program that would help us identify who the criminal aliens are for deportation."

Mary Moreno with the Texas Organizing Project called Henderson's decision "deeply troubling." Moreno opposed 287(g). She said the program fractures trust with the community and makes undocumented immigrants fearful of law enforcement and reluctant to report crime.

"This is not going to make you safer," said Moreno. "Pushing people further into the shadows, being afraid of the police does not help anyone."

A very vocal critic of 287(g) was newly elected Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. He was outspoken about the measure on the campaign trial. He vowed to withdraw from the program. However, since taking the office, Gonzalez has not delivered on the promise.

In an October 2016 ABC13 debate, he spoke strongly about the issue.

"287(g) is a dangerous program. It encourages racial profiling. It separates families. It doesn't keep our communities much safer and it's a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Gonzalez. "I would not review this voluntary program."

Eyewitness News reached out to Sheriff Gonzalez for comment. His spokesperson released the following statement.

"The Sheriff remains committed to reviewing the details of the program, meeting with stakeholders, and taking a responsible approach to determining the best way forward."

ABC13 also reached out to the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. A spokesperson said they do not participate in the 287(g) program. They do however honor ICE detainers. As of Feb. 10, 2017, there were 30 inmates in the county jail with immigration holds.
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