SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – The Smith County Sheriff’s Office received an award from ICE for cooperating with that agency.
It was all smiles inside the Sheriff’s Office, as a plaque was handed to Sheriff Larry Smith.
“In sincere appreciation to Sheriff Larry Smith, the Smith County Sherriff’s office and his designated immigration officers,” read Mark Moore, with the Dallas ICE Field Office.
The officers stood out in green shirts as they were awarded for their outstanding contribution to helping ICE through the 287 (g) program.
If an individual has committed “criminal behavior and criminal charges, or criminal convictions but also have unlawful immigration status and allowing ICE to be able to engage with those individuals and remove them from the country, rather than they get back in the community and re-offend,” explains Moore.
This is how the program works. If someone is arrested and taken to Smith County Jail, their fingerprints are taken. If the system says the inmate is an undocumented immigrant, they stay in jail and wait for ICE officials, instead of being able to bail out.
According to the American Immigration Council, the program doesn’t target serious criminal offenders. Instead, half of those detained have committed misdemeanors and traffic offenses.
“What we have seen in the community, it creates fear,” says Dalila Reynoso, with the East Texas Justice for Our Neighbors.
Reynoso is an immigration advocate and says since the program started she’s seen it do more harm than good.
“Individuals who possibly may have been a victim of a crime and are undocumented at times because they know we have a contract with ICE at a local level, do not report crimes,” says Reynoso.
To help, she gives out small cards, that she even carries herself. The cards help those who don’t speak or understand much English, letting law enforcement know they are invoking their 5th Amendment right.
Reynoso says she would like for Smith County to cancel the program, in order for victims to feel more secure when reporting crimes.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office is confident the program is working, and helping to keep the county safe.
The award was presented Wednesday by an officer from the ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, office out of Dallas.
It was given to SCSO personnel certified by the ICE 287(g) program for having no deficiencies during a biennial Office of Professional Responsibility inspection.
The 287(g) program is intended to create partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove aliens who are eligible for removal from the United States.
Before certification under the 287(g) program, jail officers had to send the fingerprints off to ICE.
Under the certification, the Smith County Jail also can hold undocumented offenders from other counties.
The county was accepted into the program in January 2017.