On Tuesday, Tarrant County leaders voted to extend a federal program that lets sheriff’s deputies work as ICE agents.
Tarrant County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to extend the program, known as 287(g) after several hours of heated testimony both for and against the motion. It was taken during their 10 a.m. meeting on Tuesday morning.
According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the program “enhances the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove aliens who are amenable to removal from the United States.”
287(g) refers to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, that permit designated officers to perform limited immigration law enforcement functions. Agreements under section 287(g) require the local law enforcement officers to receive appropriate training and to function under the supervision of ICE officers.
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The program has been in place in Tarrant County since 2017.
Critics have argued local law enforcement shouldn't do the federal government's job and that the program contributes to mistrust between immigrants and police officers.
"If you continue to stand behind 287g, you will only prove to the people that police are not here to protect and serve but to victimize based on the color of their skin," Jon Eubanks of Fort Worth told commissioners.
However, supporters have said the criticism is misplaced and the program was about public safety. Rick Barnes, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, spoke in favor of the motion on Tuesday.
"While I represent the voice of the Tarrant County republican party, this really is not a partisan issue. The safety and security of all citizens of Tarrant County should remain the responsibility of us all," Barnes said.
According to a county spokesperson, there were 72 people signed up to speak during the public comment section as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. Speakers were allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes each.
Though they are not legally bound to review the program now that it's been extended, Tarrant County judge Glen Whitley said they will do so next year.