Harris County sheriff announces continued partnership with ICE

Posted: 2:03 PM, June 23, 2016Updated: 5:34 PM, June 23, 2016

HOUSTON - Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman announced Thursday the continued federal partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hickman said the partnership will help protect lives and property of the residents of Harris County.

"I made the decision to continue participating in this federal program that identifies the very individuals that prey upon innocent members of our community," Hickman said.

He said he will continue to evaluate the program's cost and effectiveness.

According to Hickman, only nine members of his staff have the authority to assist ICE agents.

"My deputies do not routinely ask about immigration status during traffic stops, criminal investigations or when responding for calls for help," he said. "Harris County is not in the business of deportation."

Hickman said inmates are only held on state criminal violations, and it's up to ICE to detain individuals they have identified.

Harris County Commissioner Gene Locke issued a statement Thursday that read: "I am disappointed with Sheriff Ron Hickman's decision to renew the 287(g) program that allows Sheriff’s Office personnel to conduct criminal investigations with U.S. immigration officials. I am urging Sheriff Hickman to reconsider and allow 287(g) to expire in Harris County on June 30.

"As I have stated publicly on many occasions, I am adamantly opposed to 287(g) because it is a bad policy that separates families and puts sheriff's deputies in an unfortunate position of acting as immigration officers. We all agree that communities must be kept safe and protected from criminals who are intent on harming innocent people. But 287(g) is not the proper law enforcement tool to accomplish those goals.

"I have been advised by the County Attorney's Office that because Sheriff Hickman holds elected office, he has the full authority to execute the agreement without seeking Commissioners Court's approval. However, I strongly feel a policy as controversial as this one should be voted on by Commissioners Court. I would vote no."

Hickman was joined by ICE Field Office Director Patrick Contreras, the Sheriff's Association of Texas, LULAC and the Houston Hispanic Ministers Against Crime.

Harris County sheriff announces continued partnership with ICE