Tarrant County Jailers to Ask Prisoners About Immigration Status

Tarrant County accepted into federal program

Detention officers at the Tarrant County Jail will soon undergo federal training to act as federal immigration agents.

"They're trained and they're empowered to put detainers on people who are illegally in the country who are being booked into jail,” said Sheriff Bill Waybourn.

Waybourn applied in January, soon after taking office, to take part in the program by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE has now approved the application, and the training will take place in the coming weeks.

The change comes amid a national and state debate over illegal immigration.

Fort Worth is the only large city in Texas not to oppose Senate Bill 4, known as the "sanctuary city" law.

Mayor Betsy Price said Fort Worth is not a sanctuary city and doesn’t see any value in joining a lawsuit challenging the law.

But others see trouble if police officers start acting as immigration agents.

"It's going to create more problems,” said Father Stephen Jasso, who has led All Saints Catholic Church.

He said the answer is wider immigration reform.

"The roofers came out here this past week to fix the roof over here. Who are they? They're immigrants, out there in the hot sun,” he said. “Who wants to do their job? I don't know."

Tarrant County Sheriff Waybourn said his concern isn't the hard-working undocumented immigrants, but those who commit crimes.

"It's just holding people accountable,” he said.

The sheriff noted the new law does not affect people who are victims of crimes, or witnesses.

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