WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday that its agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been extended until June 2020.
The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement to perform some federal immigration duties. Sheriff Robert Chody said in December 2017 that deputies are only participating in the program in the jail.
The 19-page “memorandum of agreement,” which was initially signed in Feb. 2018, stated that some Williamson County jail employees would receive training from ICE on how to process and identify detained immigrants for removal by the federal immigration agency. The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office would not say Monday how many workers received this training. It would also not disclose when it decided to extend the agreement with ICE past the June 30 expiration date.
Williamson County is one of 75 counties in the nation and 25 in Texas with similar 287(g) programs. These programs have local law enforcement work with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws. All 287(g) agreements were set to expire June 30.
Immigration advocates from eight local groups sent a letter to the county commissioners on June 26, asking them to let the agreement expire. Those groups included Grassroots Leadership, the Workers Defense Project, WilCo Indivisible, Indivisible Cedar Park, the Williamson County NOW Taskforce, the Texas State National Organization for Women, the Austin Democratic Socialists of America Immigrant Rights Committee and the Free Souls Church in Round Rock.
“Williamson County has an opportunity to stop spending its limited public safety resources on the failed 287(g) policy that separates families over minor offenses and terrorizes immigrant residents,” said Executive Director at Grassroots Leadership Bob Libal. “At a time where the Administration has announced massive immigration raids, it is more important than ever that immigrant residents know whether they can rely on Commissioners to protect their families and communities.”
The letter to the Commissioners’ Court also called on leaders to assure those living in Williamson County that they value the safety of immigrant residents by not assisting ICE in upcoming raids.
Bethany Carson, an immigration researcher and organizer for Grassroots Leadership, told KXAN Monday that the county commissioners could still reconsider the sheriff’s office’s involvement with the program.
“They had a new opportunity with this contract to re-gain the trust of the immigrant community,” Carson said, “and it looks like they did not take this.”
Connie Odom with Williamson County issued a statement to KXAN Monday saying it wasn’t in the commissioners’ hands.
“The agreement is not required to go before the Commissioners’ Court as it’s a law enforcement agreement, more like a memorandum — like an understanding,” she said.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment about the extension of the 287(g) program Monday.