While immigration raids are expected in portions of Harris County today, local law enforcement and elected officials condemn the large-scale operation, saying it could hinder public safety.
President Donald Trump first announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would use the raids to deport 2,000 undocumented immigrants in 10 cities on June 17 via Twitter, but later delayed the raids to give Democrats and Republicans a chance to address “asylum and loophole problems at the southern border.”
The raids are intended as a massive show of force against undocumented immigrants by President Trump, who last month vowed on Twitter that “millions” would be deported.
Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, said the announcement of the large-scale raids works against government’s first responsibility of public safety, hindering the ability to keep the public safe in an effective and just way.
“In the most diverse city in the country, our law enforcement officers work collaboratively across our community through relational policing, and also work with federal government agencies to keep us safe,” Fletcher said. “They have warned us that this announcement makes their job harder, not easier, and that there is real fear throughout our community. Our priority must be public safety, not public fear.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues on long-term solutions to the complex immigration issues we face, but in the short term, I will work to advocate that the Administration listen to the experts who advise us that this approach is harmful, not helpful, to the safety of communities across the country,” she added.
ICE agents are set to target roughly families in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.
“As we anticipate Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on immigrant families starting Sunday, I encourage everyone to know their rights when interacting with ICE agents,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “Every person in our community has the right to due process. You are not required to answer the door if the agent can’t present a warrant, which can be shown to you through a window or slipped under a door. Once you open the door, agents can search your home and make arrests — even of people not listed on the warrant.”
While it is unknown what parts of Harris County would be targeted, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s office said the precinct is almost 60% Hispanic and some of the families may be undocumented.
Regardless of where the raids occur, Garcia is urging President Trump to rethink the raids that could separate families and hinder public safety.
“No one should be afraid to leave his or her home. Our kids should not be afraid to lose their parents. Parents should not feel threatened they will be separated from their children,” Garcia said. “The pain our neighbors feel is real and it causes instability in our communities. I stand with all of our immigrant communities — they are our family members, neighbors and colleagues, and they are making our country great and prosperous every day.”
As a career law-enforcement official, Garcia said he was never concerned with the immigration status of a victim or witness and needed their statements to help prosecute those responsible.
“For these reasons, I will not support raids that would separate hardworking immigrant families who come to our country in search for safety and a better life. I have always believed that the focus should always be specific to those who represent a clear and present danger to our communities and not our longtime residents who are making valuable contributions to our society, while raising the next generation of soldiers, doctors, lawyers, and elected officials,” Garcia said. “Harris County is home to more than 1.2 million foreign-born individuals, including an estimated 412,000 undocumented immigrants, immigrant communities contribute significantly to the local economy — $11 billion in spending power, $742 million in federal taxes and $448.4 million on state and local taxes.”
“The announcement of ICE raids is causing great fear in our communities and hindering public safety, this is unnecessary,” he added. “These actions harm public health by destabilizing our immigrant communities and exacerbating distrust with all levels of government, especially law enforcement.”
The large-scale operation would be a departure from past practices, in which ICE has focused its resources on rounding up people with criminal records who “pose a threat to public safety.” This approach would include families and send ICE officers to people’s homes.
Hidalgo said her office would not assist in the raids but instead looks to provide families that may be affected with resources.
“These raids seek to subvert our sense of community by putting the very heart of Harris County — our diversity — in the crosshairs of a shameful political maneuver. When I visited an adult detention center in Livingston recently, I witnessed first-hand the effects of the White House criminalizing the American Dream, as immigrants seeking asylum languished in a disorganized, demoralizing purgatory,” Hidalgo said. “Basic human rights should not be contingent on a set of documents. We will continue to support and advocate for the safety, security, and dignity of all Harris County residents.”
On Friday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his officers also would not participate in the raids and added the focus should always be on clear and immediate safety threats.
“Diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from public safety threats would drive undocumented families further into the shadows and damage our community safety,” Gonzales issued on Twitter. “It silences witnesses and victims, and would further worsen the challenges law enforcement officials face.”
Anyone with questions should call Houston Immigrants’ Right Hotline at 1-833-468-4664, which will be staffed today.
BPD policy on foreign nationals
In reference to potential ICE enforcement actions, Baytown police spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said “We work cooperatively with all of our local, county, state and federal Law Enforcement partners and should assistance be requested we would provide what assistance we can in keeping with our policies as well as state and federal laws.”
He said department policy allows officers to contact ICE if the officer suspects a person who has been arrested is not a permanent resident of the United States in order to determine “the subject’s alien status, nationality, manner of entry into the United States, any violation of law, and the verification of immigration status.”
When a foreign national is arrested, policy requires the arresting officer to “notify the arrested person’s nearest consular official,” and to inform the arrested person that notification was made.
When a person is arrested for a Class B Misdemeanor or above and the officer knows or suspects the person is in the country illegally, policy is for the officer to first have a jailer check for criminal information on the suspect, then to notify ICE by phone.
He said officers do not routinely check immigration status.
— Mark Fleming