City of Houston and HPD Change Course on 287(g)

In what I consider a small victory, Mayor Bill White and the City of Houston have backed off of implementing the 287(g) immigrant detention program, according to the Chron.

White, who is running for U.S. Senate, now appears to be backing away from the program, saying ICE officials were “bureaucratic” in the negotiations. Vincent Picard, an ICE spokesman, declined comment on the Houston negotiations.

“Rather than letting us simply write the agreements on our own terms, they want to put language in there that we object to,” White said. “We don’t want anything that creates obligations on the part of the city, or that would be inconsistent with our policies not to divert patrol officers from solving crimes.”

Mayor White was referring to an effort to make 287(g) into a program to serve his intent to pursue noncitizens who have committed violent crimes.  Instead, the City will work toward participating in a program with a “nicer” name called Secure Communities.

Secure Communities: • A technology-driven program that automatically notifies immigration officials when someone fingerprinted at a jail or prison has an immigration record. More than 80 counties participate in Secure Communities.

Obviously, this will need to be monitored, but this type of system at the very least seems to check everyone’s immigration status, and not just those profiled and detained by beat cops (hopefully).  The monitoring would need to ensure that those arrested and accused of petty crimes do not getprofiled for deportation’s sake.  And this type of program would put the onus on DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement division to close the deal by picking up whomever is reported by that system.  And there isn’t much explanation about that, or how the “wait” for ICE detention may affect City Jail overcrowding and costs that they City may not see reimbursed for detention.

Mayor White, though, has made clear of his intent in wanting 287(g) program.

The city’s goal from the start was to target “noncitizens who have committed violent crimes, serious property crimes and serious narcotics crimes” and ensure they are deported after coming into the jails, White said. He stressed that the city never intended to go after minor offenders.

The Chron article mentions that this “could” become an issue in the Mayoral election.  Where have they been?  It is an issue that has seen the candidates “talking tough,” having reservations about 287(g), or straddling a wobbly fence.  While they have been addressing budgetary issues, batting down and defending museums and stadiums, they have failed to speak to the costs of 287(g), much less the family and workforce implications.

White said that unlike 287(g), the Secure Communities program would require “no special agreement” with DHS or cost nearly as much. City officials had estimated 287(g) would cost an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million a year to operate and require training for 22 police officers and two supervisors in Houston’s jails.

Of course, this is on top of the cost to families separated, the effects on the local economy of detaining workers for immigration reasons, etc.  287(g) is a wrongful arrest and racial profiling lawsuit waiting to happen, and Mayoral candidates should have been more in tune to these facts, rather than what they have been doing, which basically reeked of right-wing appeasement.

Still, the work of the Pro-Migrant community is not done, though they should be thanked for their efforts in ensuring the civil and human rights of noncitizens and citizens alike–it affected us all.  Now, it’s on to monitoring Secure Communities and the national effort to do away with 287(g) once and for all.

And thanks to Mayor White for taking a hit from right-wing hate groups, such as Border Watch, Texans for Immigration Reform, and all the Chron comment nuts who prove everyday how the Texas education system has failed them.

UPDATE 11:21AM

In a recent Chron online interview, Annise Parker responded to a question of local immigration enforcement, as follows:

Yes, I support the enforcement of immigration laws — we will participate in the 287g program AT THE JAIL, as we do at the county jail. Police officers will not do enforcement on the streets. We will not do racial profiling because everyone booked into the city jail will be asked the same questions.

In his interview, Peter Brown said the following:

I do not support Houston being a sanctuary city. I’m commited to enforcing our laws here, and to keeping our residents safe. We need to think about this in terms of our public safety priorities. I support efforts like those of Sheriff Garcia, who I think is doing a good job in terms of his program to check detainee status and notify federal authorities.

Apparently, Peter Brown believes that Houston is a sanctuary city and has bought into the right-wing rhetoric.  And now, it seems both are using Sheriff Garcia’s approach, which DosCentavos does not support, either.  In fact, Pro-Migrant groups have also been organizing to call for Harris County to do away with 287(g).

Gene Locke will be interviewed “live” on the Chron blog today, so I await his response.  Recently, this was written about Mr. Locke’s stance.

Needless to say, I am fast becoming a one-issue candidate and thus far, this blogger is not happy.

Update:  12:20PM

Gene Locke’s Chron Interview answers:

I do not believe Houston is a sanctuary city.

When asked what he would do to rid the city of day laborers.

I’ll work with neighborhood groups and business owners to find an orderly opportunity for day laborers that does not impose on the quality of life in neighborhoods.

Good answer!

I sent in a What now? question regarding 287(g).  He responded:

Stace, I believe finding way to protect Houston from homegrown criminals and immigrant criminals is essential. The 287(g) program and the Safe Communities program are both tools that cities are considering or using.

I’m not sure where Mayor White stands. I believe that efficiency and cost ought to be the determining factors in which of these programs to utilize.

Any program we decide to use should be targeted at criminals, and should not be used to racially profile.

Thank you to Mr. Locke for his honesty.  I particularly agree with him regarding cost and efficiency, as I wrote earlier today. I believe this is one aspect that had been lacking from responses at forums I have attended.

2 responses to “City of Houston and HPD Change Course on 287(g)

  1. Pingback: Change in course on 287 (g) – Off the Kuff

  2. I’m a conservative, but I agree with Locke’s stance on this.