In 2008, Adrian Garcia became the first Hispanic sheriff in the history of Harris County, Texas. As sheriff, Garcia proceeded to preside over one of the largest 287(g) programs in the United States. In June 2016, former Sheriff Ron Hickman renewed Harris County’s participation in 287(g). After more than a year of organizing, having direct actions, doing electoral work, and building multi-racial coalitions, newly-elected Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took the first step towards fulfilling his campaign promise to end Harris County’s collaborations with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by signing an agreement to terminate the county’s 287(g) program!
Rooted in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, 287(g) is a voluntary agreement between Harris County and ICE where Harris County tax dollars paid for approximately 8 Sheriff Deputies to work as ICE agents in the jail. Varying estimates put the cost of the program at more than $500,000/year funded by the taxpayers of Harris County.
In addition to the economic impact, the Sheriff’s decision to end 287(g) is a good first step in a long process of criminal justice reform. This decision will help to strengthen trust between law enforcement and communities of color, especially as Houston’s many immigrants face daily threats to their continued presence in the U.S. This is an amazing victory for Harris County, United We Dream and many other organizations and allies who helped uplift the problems with 287(g).
On March 25, 2017, 18 Texas sheriffs in Galveston, Brazoria, Tarrant, Waller and other counties have expressed interest in entering a similar contract. As part of the 287(g) contract, each county would have to cover the funding to send staff to ICE training, for staff salaries and to provide office space, as Harris County did. Frances Valdez is looking to support any residents of the counties expressing interest in 287(g) and is open to speak with them about how they can advocate against this issue.