First of all, I will say that I am cautiously optimistic about what Mayor White and his administration are attempting.
The city of Houston is trying to persuade federal immigration officials to change a proposed jail screening agreement in order to allow jailers to target only suspected illegal immigrants with serious criminal records for deportation, the city attorney said.
Arturo Michel, the city attorney, said the city and Houston police are lobbying Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tomodify the national template for the federal government’s controversial 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement to identify suspected illegal immigrants.
Is somebody up there actually listening? This is a cautiously welcomed development. Mayor White gets a bit more specific.
Mayor Bill White denied that the city would create a weaker version of the program implemented nationally. White said Wednesday that the city would target “noncitizens who have committed violent crimes, serious property crimes and serious narcotics crimes” to ensure they are deported after coming into the jails.
“That’s pretty strong,” White added.
And this is exactly what DosCentavos has been talking about. No one in the pro-migrant community has said that we shouldn’t be going after violent or serious offendersl what we are saying is that having a blanket program that would separate families because of minor offenses and/or arrests on charges for which the accused haven’t even been convicted would present problems all around.
Meanwhile, HPOU’s Blankinship continues his quest to turn HPD into some anti-immigrant gestapo, just as his supporter Louise Whiteford.
But Homeland Security seems to be listening and possibly open to changes.
Homeland Security spokes man Matt Chandler said he could not discuss the Houston negotiations, but added that, in general, “ICE will work with 287(g) partners in order to ensure both parties are happy with the agreement. However, ICE’s priority is focusing 287(g) on criminal aliens who pose a public safety threat.”
Cesar Espinosa of America Para Todos is also cautious.
“From the beginning, we have said that we are not advocating keeping violent criminals in the country,” said Cesar Espinosa, an immigrant advocate who has helped organize protests of the city’s participation in 287(g). “If people have committed serious crimes, then they should be punished by the law. What we’re afraid of is this leading to the detention of people who have committed minor offenses.”
But Espinosa said he was concerned about the proposal to only run certain suspects through the database, saying that “opens the door for a lot of violations,” including racial profiling.
Ultimately, the NCIC computer is not going to lie–if someone is convicted of a major crime, it’s going to tell you. The issue still remains, though, on reporting the unconvicted and the accused to ICE. As 287(g) has been re-written by the Obama administration, an entity would still be required to pursue charges to the end before calling ICE for pick-up. Let’s hope the administration is thinking about that from a “resource” point of view, especially the resources of our local courts.
But as Lisa Falkenberg writes regarding UH Law Professor Michael Olivas.
Many of them still see programs like 287(g) as a way to criminalize immigration violations, which are civil infractions, and feed mistrust in the immigrant community toward law enforcement.
Michael Olivas, a University of Houston law professor who specializes in higher education and immigration law, said there’s no way to dress up 287(g).
“It needs to be tweaked in the way that Iraq needs to be tweaked,” he said. “I don’t care how they refine it, it’s a bad idea.”
And the fact that the opportunity would still exist to criminalize civil violations is something that doesn’t make me jump for joy.