Mi­grant raids boon for Texas coun­ties

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

AUSTIN, Texas — Sev­eral Texas coun­ties have found a way to profit from work­ing with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials in track­ing and de­tain­ing im­mi­grants who are liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Eight coun­ties have joined a fed­eral pro­gram that al­lows sher­iff’s deputies to be­come cer­ti­fied im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers. Four of those coun­ties — along with six oth­ers not in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram — al­low fed­eral agents to stash de­tained aliens in their jails, the Austin American-States­man re­ported Sunday.

At least 16 coun­ties na­tion­wide par­tic­i­pate in both pro­grams. Lub­bock County re­cently started hav­ing deputies cer­ti­fied as im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers un­der a pro­gram named 287(g), for the law that cre­ated it. It also col­lects $65 daily per per­son it houses af­ter de­ten­tion by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

With fed­eral pres­sure on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion grow­ing, ad­vo­cates worry that more coun­ties will act to par­tic­i­pate in both pro­grams. The setup is a “per­verse fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive,” said Mary Small, pol­icy di­rec­tor of the Washington-based De­ten­tion Watch Net­work.

Walker County, where Huntsville is lo­cated, re­sponded to a jail es­cape by is­su­ing $20 mil­lion in bonds in 2012 to build a new jail. The county sher­iff’s of­fice vowed to find new rev­enue sources to help de­fray the cost of the new lockup and locked onto work­ing with Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

“It al­lows them to con­trol the pipe­line of peo­ple into the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity where they’re then paid per day to de­tain peo­ple,” Small said.

As far as Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment is con­cerned, though, the pro­grams pro­vide “an in­valu­able force mul­ti­plier” for im­mi­gra­tion agents, said agency spokesman Sarah Ro­driguez.

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