Galveston County’s deputies could soon have more power to investigate people’s immigration status, and detain them for possible deportation.

Galveston County Commissioners will today consider entering an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will increase its ability to screen county jail prisoners’ immigration status, and potentially lead to their deportation.

Commissioners will vote on whether to direct the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office to complete a needs assessment to join ICE’s 287 (g) Program.

The program deputizes local law enforcement to interrogate, arrest and detain people suspected of violating immigration law.

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said that he met with ICE officials recently to talk about the program.

“They will train our deputies within the jail to assist in determining status,” Trochesset. “This will help us out.”

The commissioner’s vote will come less than a day after Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough made a proclamation celebrating the city’s history as an immigrant port and decrying state and national efforts that “result in many individuals fearing for their safety ... and the potential loss of civil liberties.”

Yarbrough read the proclamation at an event called “Galveston Welcoming City Day,” held at the Galveston Islamic Center on Monday night. The event was organized by Indivisible Galveston, a organization dedicated to resisting the policies of President Donald Trump.

Yarbrough’s proclamation notes the contributions of immigrants to Galveston’s history and specifically notes the city’s Hispanic population.

“Through immigration in Galveston, our culture has been enriched as have many other areas of Texas,” the proclamation read.

Yarbrough said he would be willing to work with ICE in removing people who have committed “horrific” crimes, such as rape or murder. But he said there’s a difference between those people and people who have committed “lesser degree” crimes.

“There are a lot of people who are here maybe illegally but now they are a part of the fabric of our community,” he said. “You’ve got families involved now. You can’t just pick them up and move them.”

The event was scheduled in response to Trump’s executive order banning travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. It also comes days after the Texas Senate approved a bill proposing punishments for so-called sanctuary cities.

Galveston is not considered a sanctuary city, a term that generally refers to cities that refuse to cooperate in detaining people because of their immigration status.

Galveston Police Chief Rick Boyle said the Galveston Police Department doesn’t check a person’s immigration status during an arrest.

“We don’t,” Boyle said. “We book through the Galveston County jail. What the jail does, I’m not sure.”

Boyle stopped short of calling Galveston a sanctuary city.

“We follow the law when it comes to stopping people and detaining people,” Boyle said. “We have to have reasonable position or probable cause to do so. That’s what police departments live by.”

Regardless of the city’s checks, however, Galveston County does already try to review the status of people who are brought to the jail, Trochesset said.

“While we’re classifying them, we try to determine their status,” he said. “The one that can’t give us their Social Security numbers or can’t give us the documentation, we call to get assistance from ICE.”

The 287 (g) program essentially allows local law enforcement to do greater investigation into a person’s immigration status, after that person is arrested for another crime and after the local department receives training through the federal government.

Commissioners will vote on whether to move forward with the assessment. The assessment alone does not determine if ICE will approve the partnership.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.

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(8) comments

Don Ciaccio

Excellent news for the safety of Galveston County residents.

Steve Fouga

Ditto!

Jarvis Buckley

Good job Galveston county👍

Don Schlessinger

Thank you Galveston County for keeping Galveston Island safe.

Jennifer Lawrence

I think the majority of this country welcomes LEGAL immigration. I am tired of everyone leaving the word "legal" out of the discussion. I'm glad to see the county taking a step in enforcing the laws we already have. Everyone that does not follow the law knowingly invites the risk of possible consequence. We need to empower our law enforcers to do their job. It is already hard enough! Thanks GDN for the article and thanks to our law enforcers.

PD Hyatt

I for one am happy that Galveston is doing what they should be doing and not like Houston which is not enforcing the laws that are already on the books.... To many people have broken our laws by crossing our borders illegally.... They need to be arrested and sent back south or from where ever they came from....

David Alquest

I agree with Mayor Yarborough. We should be a welcoming city. A vast majority of undocumented workers are exploited by our society - doing hard work in the tourist business, restaurants, lawn maintenance, road work. They get localized an become a part of the community with a house and car and friends, and just make a living. Their "crimes" are not being able to get insurance or a driver's license. We are not a police state...well, apparently Trochesset reports them to ICE anyway by calling for "assistance." We need to be human and to be aware of the struggles of others.

Randy Chapman

"A vast majority of undocumented workers are exploited by our society - doing hard work in the tourist business, restaurants, lawn maintenance, road work." Contrary, they have exploited our entire labor and entitlement system. None of this is hard work. It is work that Americans can and would do, if the illegals had not come here and driven the wages down. And it is a very big issue that they refuse to get insurance and driver's licenses. I have had to use my insurance to repair my vehicle after being hit by one of these model citizens. I can be human, but that doesn't mean that I advocate letting the entire planet move to the United States. And don't drop the race card either. Mexico and Mexicans are targeted because by and large, they are the problem. Nationals from other countries can't just swim a river or step over a fence to get here illegally.

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