HOUSTON - In a move that could prove the first of its kind in the nation, Harris County taxpayers will soon be picking up the legal tab for local immigrants fighting deportation.
“For folks who are deported, for some of them it’s a death sentence,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
Lina Hidalgo says those fighting to stay here deserve expert representation in a judicial system she calls "convoluted and broken" when it comes to immigration. She says research indicates immigrants with competent lawyers have a much better chance of not being returned by the courts to their country of origin.
‘The idea is for us to help chip away at a problem that faces our own community because it leads to families being torn apart and it leads to folks being plucked away from jobs that contribute to our economy,” said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo places the start-up cost for Harris County funded immigrant legal aid at $500,000. It is an initiative fully backed by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
“There are too many people who are valuable to our community that want to do the right thing. They just need some support,” said Garcia.
Also during Tuesday's marathon session, there was a development many found shocking - the termination of well-regarded County Budget Officer Bill Jackson.
In a 3-2 vote along strict party lines, the Democratic majority prevailed with Judge Hidalgo pledging to hire a replacement capable of better showing taxpayers where their money is spent and why.
Republican Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle criticized the firing as an unjustified purge based not on performance, but rather politics.
“What we are trying to do is move into a direction where we make decisions with cards faced down now as opposed to cards face up,” said Precinct 4 CommisionerJack Cagle.