Houston City Council put 287 G back on the table, but at what cost?

287gToday (Oct 28th 2008) Houston City Council will sit and consider a controversial bill that will deputize Houston police officers to essentially act as ICE agents. The program is known as 287G. This measure has come underfire for a number of reasons, first and foremost it was rejected a while back with both current Mayor Bill White and Houston’s police chief Harold L Hurtt coming out against it.  They like so many community members understand that by having the police act as ICE agents can lead to increased unneccessary tensions between police  and the community.

In many neighborhoods its hard enough to get people to cooperate with the police because of strained relationships from years past.  The 287G program will only add to that strain, resulting in people not willing to call the police for any reason. A simple call for help could have dire consequences especially if folks have a relative or close friend who citizenship is in question.  Adding to that complication is the fact that many folks don’t like to be profiled and 287 G has racial profiling written all over it..

We spoke with a number of activists who have been camped out Houston City hall keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings.  We spoke with Tasha Jackson who explained that she wasn’t quite sure what was motivating city council members  and County commissioners to bring this issue up after it was soundly rejected. She noted that it was disappointing to see all the mayoral candidates had endorsed 287 G..  This raised the question as to whether or not there would be some sort of political backlash since Houston has such a large Latino population. It also raised the question if we didn’t see a strong pushback from Democrats if a possible end game was to NOT expand the voting poll. By that we mean sometimes its in peoples political interest to not have more people come to the party who may make demands on certain wedge issues.

With the Latino vote there are a few things to consider. First there’s been a lot of racially tinged and even hostile reaction to important issues effecting the Latino community from the right leaving very little room for a middle ground. Some of those issues may force a candidate from the left to look closely to see if the right’s reaction has impacted independent and moderate voters and see if those votes outnumber the Latino votes that are being targeted. 



Toni Lawrence-Houston City Council

We spoke with another activist Ceasar  Espinosa of America for All. He explained that  one possible motive for city council member Toni Lawrence who is leading the charge to get the city to embrace 287 G is that she is currently running for comptroller and losing. He feels that by her making this an issue it will help push her name out there and perhaps endear her to a conservative base. He also noted that the same may said for current mayoral candidates. They too maybe trolling for conservative votes.

As of press time, many of the city council members (most are against 287 G) had not shown up to discuss the issue. We’ll keep[ you posted as to what eventually emerges. In any case, this seems like political postering in preparation for pushing Houston’s next Mayor in a particular political direction.

-Davey D-

Immigration enforcement back on table in Houston


ICE-arrestHouston City Council will reconsider a federal program that deputizes local law enforcement officers as immigration agents during a special meeting Oct. 28.

District A councilmember Toni Lawrence said Friday that she had received the necessary signatures from her colleagues on Houston City Council to require a Council meeting and possible vote on whether the city should participate in the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program.

Lawrence’s action was in response to last week’s announcement that the city of Houston had decided not to participate in the program.

“I strongly favor having the City’s Police Department participate in both the 287(g) program and the Secure Communities Program,” said Lawrence. “This is a public safety issue, plain and simple. Law enforcement needs to have the tools to keep criminals off the streets, whether those criminals are citizens, legal immigrants, or illegal immigrants.”

ICE’s 287(g) program deputizes local law enforcement to act as immigration agents and the Secure Communities Program gives local law enforcement access to a massive immigration database to check suspects’ immigration history.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office is participating in both programs and has eight deputies who assist ICE in identifying illegal immigrants who enter the Harris County Jail system. Nationwide, the program has resulted in identifying more than 70,000 illegal immigrants since 2006.

Without participating in the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs, illegal immigrants can enter the Houston Jail System and be released without transferring to immigration officials for deportation proceedings.

Last spring, a Houston police officer was critically injured in a shooting by an illegal immigrant who had previously been detained in the City jail and released.

Lawrence encouraged the public to attend the meeting.

“It is important that City Hall knows Houstonians support all efforts to keep our streets safe,” she said. “There is broad support for participation in these programs and my colleagues on city council need to hear support for them next Wednesday.”

Lawrence thanked Mayor Bill White for continuing to work with her on this issue despite last week’s announcement. She also thanked fellow council members Anne Clutterbuck and Mike Sullivan for their leadership in signing on to require this meeting.

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