HOUSTON, TX - Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez gave official notice Tuesday that he is opting out of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's voluntary 287-g program.
The decision places Harris County in line with 251 of 254 Texas counties that do not take part in the program that allows ICE to deputize local law officers to perform certain federal immigration enforcement functions in jails. The decision will free at least $675,000 in the sheriff's budget to more effectively direct resources to address local public safety issues.
The process to begin termination of the HCSO's participation in this voluntary program will begin immediately. It is Sheriff Gonzalez's intent that the transition away from this program be conducted in a smooth, responsible manner that prioritizes the continued safety of the residents of Harris County.
“The withdrawal of the sheriff's deputies will still allow ICE officials to come to the jail and screen jail inmates to determine their immigration status and the county will hold them for deportation if requested,” Gonzalez said.
The sheriff remarked that major overcrowding in the county jail complex, where staff shortages have increased overtime costs to $1 million every two weeks, has forced him to deploy his ICE-trained deputies elsewhere. He clarified that his decision was not political "but an issue of resources," explaining the deputies may also be assigned to help improve clearance rates of major crimes or ad to the patrol division.