County jail to share data with immigration office

Posted: July 29, 2009 06:42 PM CDT

Updated: July 29, 2009 06:42 PM CDT

By Martin Bartlett

EAST EL PASO COUNTY -- If you end up at the county jail on a serious charge, El Paso County Sheriff's deputies will now send your information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so they can compare it with their database. That means you're probably getting deported if you're an undocumented immigrant.

"Frankly, I don't want people here committing Class 'B' (crimes) and above -- illegal or otherwise," said El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles.

Those are crimes like drunk driving, family violence, and other felonies, he said. Those are crimes they already have to report to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI.

The sheriff said your name will not be run through the federal database for something as simple as a minor traffic violation; he also says deputies will not be conducting traffic stops to conduct federal immigration law.

Immigrant advocate Iliana Holguin said migrants caught committing minor crimes might accidentally get caught up in the system.

"I don't think it's fair to sacrifice them for the small number we may actually be getting," she said.

Wiles said he decided to sign on to the program because, in exchange, ICE will give him a look at their database. He said that means he will have more information to fight crimes that have little or nothing to do with immigration.

The program is now underway in 70 counties across the country including Maricopa County, Ariz., and Harris County, Texas.