The Trump administration signed off on a Monday deal to give some Texas counties the power to probe the immigration status of detainees held in local jails.
U.S. immigration authorities approved the treaty, which endows select sheriffs’ offices in 18 of Texas’ 254 counties to assume a handful of federal powers.
Under the confines of the program, counties party to the agreement will nominate certain officers to receive special training in identify undocumented immigrants who should be deported. In other jurisdictions, deportation is the sole responsibility of the federal government.
Approved at sheriffs’ meeting in suburban Dallas, the deal is among many of the moves taken by the Trump administration to curb illegal immigration from Latin America.
The timing coincides with moves by the White House and Texas Governor Greg Abbott to attack so-called ‘sanctuary cities,’ in which law enforcement officials are instructed not to ask the immigration status of individuals they encounter in the course of duty.
According to Reuters, ‘U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reached what is known as a 287(g) agreement with the counties. The deal trains local agents in the sheriff’s offices to check if the people they have in custody may be in violation of U.S. immigration law.’
“There’s no doubt that arresting removable aliens in a jail is safer for the officers, safer for the community and even safer for the alien himself,” said Acting ICE Director Tom Homan at a press conference.
Homan also said he’d like to see the rest of Texas’ 254 counties come on board with the arrangement.
“Some of the people I have talked to have a concern this will divide the law enforcement agency from immigrant communities, which I disagree with,” he said.
Critics of strict immigration policy say that a focus on deportation makes unauthorized aliens less likely to report crimes to the police, for fear that they may too be investigated and detained.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott was also present at the conference. He took the opportunity to defend a recently passed law which bans ‘sanctuary cities’ in the state.
Abbott said giving increased power to law enforcement helps cut back on criminal offenses like human trafficking – a problem he suggested might somehow be tied to sanctuary cities.
“It would remove from the streets dangerous criminals, not detain hardworking families and innocent children,” he said. “I appreciate the strong support the law has received from so many sheriffs in Texas.”
However, support for immigration deal and sanctuary cities wasn’t as unanimous as the governor seemed to think.
“There are as many opinions as there are hats,” said Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. “There are a lot of officers that don’t agree with that.”
Valdez said he thought the laws would simply act as a way for unscrupulous officers to go after under-privileged Texans.
“Throughout history, we’ve had a vulnerable group to pick on,” the Sheriff said. “Now it seems to be Hispanics.”