Monday, November 17, 2008

Immigration at Harris County SO

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

Yesterday I read the first of a three piece story that is being presented by the Houston Chronicle about criminal aliens within the Houston Area that are not being processed and deported by ICE. The fact is this problem has been in existence not only in the Houston area but the United States for the past 20 years.

The article quoted Congressman Ted Poe (R)L

”Criminals from foreign countries who get caught after committing a crime and prosecuted should go to the top of the list of people we deport.”

However if congressman Poe had checked with the Director of Homeland Security he may have discovered that this policy has been the backbone of the deportation program for the last 30 years, even before the creation of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

What Congressman Poe fails to mention is that he voted to deny funding for an increase in detention and deportation funding to help ICE combat this problem.

The current situation is complex but I will try to explain it in a manner that we can all understand.

First, when an individual is processed in the city or county jail, the minute that it is discovered that he is undocumented the circumstances of the case change.

Case in point, the DAs office in the past has taken the practice of dropping criminal charges if an ICE detainer is filed with the Sheriffs office. Their reasoning is that these undocumented individuals are the responsibility of the federal government (the United Stated Attorney).

The U.S Attorneys office has the history of taking the position that undocumented individuals with no criminal convictions are not subject to federal prosecution due to the limited resources that are available to their office.

Now this undocumented individual who was initially changed with a possible felony is referred to ICE as an undocumented alien. Without a criminal conviction the individual is eligible for an immigration bond under the current federal regulations. If however they had been convicted for an Aggravated Felony, they would be subject to mandatory detention under federal regulation.

This pratice is occuring everyday throught the United States and was a key issue at the begining of the Presidential election. Today several states are attempting to address the problem.

As a retired ICE agent I am familiar with this complex problem. The fact is the Chronicle failed to mention that with the limited funding provided to the Houston ICE office they are responsible not only for Harris County but is also 35 other counties southeast Texas counties.

Now the Chronicle explains that the Harris County Sheriff has trained 8 deputies to interview allege undocumented individuals leading their readers to believe that this will solve the issue. (Believe me it won’t) This is a pilot program and several question need to be answered.

To what extent do these officer’s authority extends?

Do these officers have the authority to file federal detailers?

Is ICE obligated to detain and deport all individuals identified by these officers?

Do these officers have the authority to execute deportation orders?

What liabilities dose Harris County face if these officers make a mistake?

As per the Houston Chronicle, Sheriff-elect Adrian Garcia has stated that he will reevaluate the program when he assumes the office in January and I wish him every success in dealing with this complex issue.

But I also warn my readers that it is unfair to hold any newly elected Sheriff or the Harris County Sheriffs office accountable for issues that have been ignored in the past by the DAs office and the US Attorneys office.

As always I welcome you thought and comments.

Joe A. Montemayor

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