Worst Opportunist Against the Immigrant Community: Sheriff Adrian Garcia
By Rob Block
Ed. Note: This is a Worst of 2014 that we unfortunately did not have room for in print, but we still think it’s important. By continuing to participate in 287(g) and Secure Communities, Adrian Garcia is throwing undocumented immigrants (arguably the most powerless group of people in our society) under the bus so he can pick up some votes from racists when he runs for mayor.
Adrian Garcia is the first Democrat elected as Harris County Sheriff in a long time, and he replaced someone who was pretty terrible in terms of protecting the human rights of people who end up in the county jail. Still, one reason that Garcia stands out is as a national champion of the Secure Communities Program, and as one of only two law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas to maintain a 287(g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. Both of Secure Communities and 287(g) are designed to identify people who are undocumented that end up in the county jail and deport them.
A lot has been written about why this is bad public policy. Making the federal responsibility of enforcing immigration law leads to less trust of law enforcement in immigrant communities, adds expenses on local jails to hold people, and has violated the constitutional rights of thousands of US citizens by mistakenly placing them in deportation proceedings.
These programs were marketed as focusing on and deporting the worst of the worst — gang-bangers and violent criminals. But only 30% of those deported from Houston were convicted of violent crimes, the reminder being convicted of a mix of non-violent crimes, traffic offenses, or the civil (not criminal) offense of being here without papers.
Many local governments and law enforcement agencies across the country stopped complying with the request to hold people for ICE to pick up and deport them. Adrian Garcia, on the other hand, has continued to support these programs, including an appearance on Democracy Now! in 2011 to defend the programs.
This fall President Obama announced that he was going to take executive action on immigration, which included an end the Secure Communities Program, which would be replaced by a “New Priority Enforcement Program” which works in a similar way, but should only target those convicted of violent and serious crimes. Adrian Garcia appeared on the NPR Radio program Hear and Now a week after President Obama’s announcement and said that this new program means less people will be deported and that that is a good thing.
While its great that he sees this program as a good thing, it would have been nice for him to be able to notice this earlier and push for the changes publicly while his office was facilitating the deportations of thousands of residents of Harris County for non-violent crimes. Adrian Garcia was either being dishonest in championing a program that he knew was deporting people who should not be deported, or he is being dishonest now that he is happy this new program should deport less people. Either way, we should be able to hope for more from someone who is proud of his heritage as a child of immigrants, and has political ambitions for higher office.
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