Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Cuts Needed ICE Program

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez risks public safety for politics.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez risks public safety for politics.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Risks Loss Of Funds To Harris County Law Enforcement

Harris County, TX – Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has ended a program with ICE that used a specially-trained team of ten Deputies to determine the immigration status of suspects who were in jail.

Sheriff Gonzalez, a Democrat, took office in January, 2017, according to The Houston Chronicle.  The ten Harris County Deputies were trained under an ICE program known as 287(g) at a cost of $675,000 in salaries.  They will be reassigned to other duties.

The Sheriff said that ICE officials will still be allowed to come to the jail and assess jail inmates to determine their immigration status.  He also said that the county will also still hold prisoners for deportation if ICE issues an order and a request.  He blamed overcrowding in the jail and said that his decision was not political but “an issue of resources.” Sheriff Gonzalez said that the decision was made “after thoughtful consideration.”

He notified ICE officials on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, of his decision.  It is especially noteworthy that the Sheriff made a campaign promise to re-evaluate the county’s participation in the 287(g) program.  And it comes at a time when President Trump is following through on his campaign promise to eliminate sanctuary cities and remove criminal illegal immigrants.  Part of President Trump’s stance on criminal illegal immigrants ‘focuses on stronger interior enforcement and expansion of programs’ such as this one in the Harris County Jail.

It’s also strange that Sheriff Ed Gonzalez’s withdrawal from the program comes at a time when other Sheriffs in neighboring counties are applying to the program, which pays for the Deputies’ training.  The 287(g) program was established by ICE after authorization by a 1996 immigration law but has seen limited use, most likely because of the previous Presidential administration’s acceptance of illegal immigrants.  It was used by former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and continued with Sheriff Ron Hickman.

Sheriff Gonzalez’s decision could have dangerous consequences for Harris County.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott and local Republican Senators are currently working to pass a “sanctuary city” law that would withhold funding from law enforcement agencies that do not cooperate with federal requests to hold inmates.  The Sheriff has said that he will not deny an ICE request to hold an inmate, but the sheriff’s office doesn’t notify ICE that they have an inmate, then no detainer will be issued.

Earlier in 2017, Sally Hernandez, newly-elected Sheriff of Travis County, was publicly rebuked by Governor Abbott for her announcement of a new policy that would limit ICE detainers to those inmates with specific, severe crimes. In response, the Governor threatened to withhold law enforcement grants that were funneled through his office.  He also threatened to have Sheriff Hernandez removed from office.

Houston State Senator Paul Bettencourt, Republican, said that Sheriff Gonzalez should keep the program because it allows Deputies to quickly assess an illegal immigrant’s status.  He is co-sponsor of the above sanctuary city legislation and said that “this program has gotten politicized, and it shouldn’t.”  He also said “It’s a program to catch serious criminal aliens and get them to an ICE facility, and if necessary, for them to be deported … It’s the right thing to do for a sheriff regardless of party, a tool that protects society from repeat offenders who are criminal aliens.”

Glenn Smith, Waller County Sheriff, said that he supports the program because it makes operations more efficient and speeds up inmate processing which his Office already has to do.  Rand Henderson, Montgomery County Sheriff, also supports the 287(g) program and said he supports consequences for those who don’t.  He said “As a Texas sheriff, I agree with removal of all state grant funding for those who do not comply with federal immigration law, which creates de facto ‘sanctuary cities.”

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez’s decision to cut this program is a bad idea.  ICE doesn’t have the manpower to check each potential illegal immigrant for his or her status that is placed in his jail, and the Sheriff appears to be betting on that very thing.  ICE relies on the jail to assess an immigrant’s status, which is normal procedure.

Society will pay if these felon illegal immigrants are not located, and removed, as they are a clear and present danger if not found.  It’s also shameful that the Sheriff is willing to risk sacrifice millions of dollars in federal funding as opposed to $675,000 to have these Deputies continue doing their jobs.

Do you think that funding should be cut to jurisdictions which fight immigration enforcement? We’d like to know what you think. Please let us know in the poll below or on our Facebook page.