Dallas County Constable Ray Nichols confronted County Commissioners Tuesday to defend the arrest by one of his deputies of a woman on immigration charges.
“We’re trying to keep the streets safe. That’s all we’re doing. These are felony warrants, these are priority warrants,” Nichols said.
The July 20 arrest in Oak Cliff was recorded on cellphone video by bystanders and posted on Facebook. It happened on the other side of Dallas County from Precinct Two in Garland and Mesquite which Nichols serves.
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A statement from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the time said the arrest was made by ICE Fugitive Operations Team members.
Nichols said his office has no formal arrangement with the federal government but does sometimes make arrests outside his Precinct involving warrants for federal crimes.
He bristled at the fact that global positioning satellite information on the location of his cars had been released to the media showing the cars parked at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices for long periods of time.
Nichols said there is confidential law enforcement information about this case that he could not share in public.
“There are people involved in this that I’m aware of, their lives will be at stake if we start letting information out. So we need to stop this,” Nichols said.
Constables are generally responsible for serving routine Dallas County Justice of the Peace court warrants and court room bailiff duties.
“You are out there doing Federal work with Dallas County taxpayers’ money and that is not right and that is not acceptable to me,” County Commissioner Elba Garcia told Nichols.
“We’re not doing Federal work for the Federal Government. We’re protecting the community and sometimes those warrants fall into that paradigm. It’s a priority issue. If they’re being arrested it’s because they’re an imminent danger to society, the community, our children,” Nichols shot back at Garcia.
The women arrested in this case, Trinidad Camacho, 54, was in the US illegally and had been deported before. Information provided by ICE earlier this month said she had a prior felony record for cocaine possession and driving under the influence. She was previously deported to Mexico in 1999.
Activist Hilda Duarte said there is no evidence of outstanding criminal warrants for the woman.
“If she was this dangerous woman, a 54 year old grandmother, dangerous woman to society, why the hell isn’t the FBI following her themselves,” Duarte said.
The woman’s daughter, Martha Camacho, said her mother had committed no new crimes in the US the past 18 years, aside from being in the country illegally.
“The reason she came back to this country was because of her family. We were young at the time. That’s why she was here,” Martha Camacho said.
Camacho said her husband, the deported woman’s son-in-law, was stopped by the Precinct 2 Deputy Constable about an hour before Trinidad Camacho was arrested in the same Oak Cliff neighborhood on July 20.
“That’s long working hours when they could be doing something more efficiently,” Camacho said.
She said her husband was released after the Constable Deputy learned he is a citizen, but that Deputy later stopped and detained Trinidad Camacho who has since been deported again.
“It sounds like we’re involved in an operation with ICE about this particular person,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.
Trinidad Camacho was taken to an ICE detention facility by Nichols’ deputy and not the Dallas County Jail.
“You can take it up with the Federal Government,” Nichols said. “It’s not our choice. We didn’t make that choice. I don’t have an answer for it.”
County Commissioner John Wiley Price said people arrested by Dallas County employees are typically taken to the jail for convenience because the County has a detention contract with ICE.
“ICE agents are in our facility, so I guess, I’m a little perplexed,” Price said.
Nichols denied working directly for ICE but insisted he is enforcing the law and the actions of his people should not be second guessed.
“The fact of the matter is that, it doesn’t make sense,” Commissioner Garcia said. “My colleagues and I will look definitely at all the options when it comes to the budget.”
Constables are independent elected officials who are not under the control of County Commissioners. But Commissioners do set the Constables’ budgets. Commissioners are free to reduce Constable spending if they disagree with programs. Constable traffic enforcement duties were removed in the past after a towing scandal involving one Constable.
Dallas County Commissioners are currently finalizing a new budget for 2018-2019 to take effect October 1.