HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Harris County immigration rights activists are glad to see Sheriff Ed Gonzalez cut ties with the federal 287-G program, but they say their fight is far from over.
“I’ve been undocumented for over 26 years now. I was brought here when I was two years old,” explains Oscar Hernandez with the Immigration rights group United We Dream.
America feels like home for the 28 year old. ”I am a homeowner. I work here,” says Hernandez. But he says he's constantly reminded, especially with the renewed push for immigration reform, that he is here illegally. Hernandez is protected by President Obama's executive action known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“It didn’t pass through the House. It didn’t pass through the Senate. So that means the (Trump) Administration has the decision whether or not they keep this program. So just because I have DACA it does not mean I am protected. This DACA can be taken away at any moment. DACA does not have a pathway to legal citizenship. It’s merely for me and people like me to work legally,” says Hernandez.
While Harris County has ended affiliation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287-G program, what about other area law enforcement agencies?
”I will support the president any way I can to make sure those who are here illegally who have a history of committing crimes against our people, heck I’ll help round them up myself,” says Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls.
While Nehls is for deporting criminals here illegally, his department will not take part in the 287-G program.
”We are not going to do the job for ICE. ICE you have to do your job,” says Sheriff Nehls.
In fact, only 38 law enforcement agencies in 16 states participate in 287-G where they send officers to ICE training, authorizing them to conduct immigration enforcement functions. Three of the 287-G participating agencies are in Texas, including Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Carrollton Police Department and Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Nehls says a list of everyone brought in to the Fort Bend County Jail is already turned over to ICE. He says it's border security that needs attention. He points to two major busts last month alone in Fort Bend County, crimes committed by criminals who weren't supposed to be in the country.
"He was deported twice. So he’s here again selling meth in Fresno, TX, pounds of it and the last thing you want is your loved on hooked on meth. How are these individuals just going back and forth? That’s because there’s no border security and that’s why I support Donald Trump, President Trump and his idea of building the wall," Sheriff Nehls says.
Hernandez fears the deportation of criminals will go too far. “I actually had an uncle who got deported several years ago and his big offense was not paying the Beltway 8 tolls,” he says.
So why not become a U.S. citizen? Hernandez says because he was brought here illegally he would have to leave the country for 10 years before he can apply for citizenship.
United We Dream Houston is planning to protest Senate Bill-4 in Austin on Saturday. Under SB-4 law enforcement in cities, counties and on college campuses would have to hold an arrested person in custody while U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement looks into his or her immigration status. If the agencies fail to do so, they could be denied state grant money.
If you would like to join United We Dream Houston find the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UWDHouston/.