Thursday, April 13, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Each morning, a Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detail arrives at the Brownsville Municipal Jail and asks for a ledger of the night's arrests.

Whether a prisoner was detained for driving without a valid license, trespassing, public intoxication or a myriad of minor offenses, the ICE agents stand outside the cell by the fingerprint table and call each one out to ascertain their U.S. citizenship. If they find someone may be in this country illegally, they place an immigration detainer and the person is not allowed to be released, even if they post bond on the municipal charge.

The City of Brownsville has been allowing them to do this since ICE asked permission to enter and check the prisoners years ago. But now, with the passage of Texas Senate Bill 4 and its clearance of the House version Wednesday by a 7-5 vote, the bill goes to calendar and, if pushed though the fast track, will go to the full Republican-controlled Legislature for a vote.

If passed – as it is expected to – it will require all law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainers, which are requests to hold a person in custody while their immigration status is investigated. It also makes it a Class A misdemeanor if sheriffs, constables and police chiefs don't honor the detainers. If they still don't comply, they can be arrested, handcuffed, and jailed. In the case of elected officials, the Texas Attorney General can move to remove them from office.

The original language in the senate bill allowed officers to ask anyone about their immigration status if they were detained, which includes being pulled over for a traffic violation. The House version only allows officers to ask about status once someone is arrested.

State Rep. Rene Oliveira's Administrative Aide Tony Gray said once the House bill moves out of calendars and into a conference committee, it might emerge with some changes. But given the political climate in the state and country, he said the efforts of Democrats to soften the bill have gone unheeded.

"When it was heard in the Senate, there were people crying about broken families, profiling, you name it, but it passed anyway," he said. "The House version basically deputizes every law enforcement officer in Texas to be the pawns of the federal government." 

Although Democrats were able to remove the school district police forces from being required to take on the role of immigration officers, college police department were not. That means, Gray said, that if a student is stopped by a college campus police officer for disorderly conduct or a parking ticket, he might end up being detained for his immigration status and possibly deported.
"We have a situation at TSC where Mexican students qualify for grants and student loans suddenly being in danger of deportation," he said. "On the one hand the government is helping them get an education, and on the other it wants to deport them.  Hopefully, we'll be able to slow this down in conference and soften it up a bit."

Border residents still remember when  domestic workers (criadas, gardeners) would come over on Monday and leave Saturday after they had finished their chores at local homes, sometimes working for immigration officers and their families. And locals in Brownsville still remember when groups of workers would congregate at the old Lopez Grocery store on Adams by the Greyhound Bus Station to be picked up by truckers who would take them to fields around the city to work.

"In those days, the workers would get picked up and the migra would be watching in their trucks and didn't do anything because they knew they were going to work and would be back in the evening," said a former farm worker now in his 70s. "How things have changed."

Others say the push to shove stricter enforcement of immigration laws came on January 25 when President Donald Trump signed his executive order against sanctuary cities and threatened to cut federal funding from those entities who did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But the Texas version of the bill not only penalizes the municipalities and counties, but also calls for fines and imprisonment for those individual officers and elected officials who do not comply with the provisions of the bill.

"Many see this as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott getting back at Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez after she said her department would reduce its cooperation with immigration authorities," Gray.

In February, Abbott after  said her department would not honor ICE requests that inmates be flagged for possible deportation. The move targeted about $1.5 million Travis County was due to receive this year from the criminal justice division of the governor’s office. The division doled out $1.8 million to the county last year and has already paid out roughly $300,000 in 2017.

The enforcement of the provisions of the bill, should it become law, would be left to the discretion of the Texas attorney General Ken Paxton, an irony not lost on Gray.

"So now we have this new law targeting bad hombres left to the discretion of Paxton who is set to go to trial for securities fraud," he said. "This is not good."


Anonymous said...

Most of us are very tolerant of folks who enter this country illegally who work and stay out of trouble. However, if folks come here illegally and break they law, out they go. All the tears about broken families mean nothing. When somebody breaks the law, there are consequences and the blame goes on the offender and not those who enforce the laws.

We have a big crop of domestic law breakers and don't need another crop of illegal imported law breakers.

Anonymous said...

"We have a situation at TSC where Mexican students qualify for grants and student loans suddenly being in danger of deportation," he said. "On the one hand the government is helping them get an education, and on the other it wants to deport them. Hopefully, we'll be able to slow this down in conference and soften it up a bit."

How is it that someone that may be in the U.S. illegally can get a grant or student loan?

That just does not make sense does it, maybe Mexico could repay all of the unpaid or forfeited loans that illegal students have not paid.

Anonymous said...

The law is the law and if someone breaks the law, then vamonos! Mexico or whomever, levanta tu gente. They continue to claim, "Mexico Lindo y Querido!" so why the hell are they here sponging off the stupidity of those who give them the Lone Star, free housing, free utilities, free toilet paper, free phones, feed food for the kids at school and free schools. Those are benefits that should go to the legal United States citizen - 65 or older - who have worked all their lives and are now ready to receive some help from their country, but since we worked and have some savings, we do not qualify. Esto esta mal and I say, "Mandenlos para atras y haber si Mexico les va a dar todos los beneficios que se roban aqui?

Anonymous said...

Pobre los ninos! Ba! Tienen hijos, mantengalo con su dinero y no handen pidiendo ayuda. Ponganse a trabajar y si no les gusta, vayanze para su Mexico. But then, our schools would really close, porque estan llenas de puros mojados!

Anonymous said...

Dago, is that you?