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Immigration program 'separates families,' creates mental anguish, protesters claim

Advocacy groups take matters into own hands at Fort Worth town hall

Several advocacy groups took matters into their own hands at a public meeting, urging local officials to take into account immigrant families and reconsider Tarrant County Jail’s partnership with federal immigration.
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Several advocacy groups took matters into their own hands at a public meeting, urging local officials to take into account immigrant families and reconsider Tarrant County Jail’s partnership with federal immigration.

Several advocacy groups Wednesday night urged local officials to reconsider Tarrant County Sheriff's Office's partnership with federal immigration authorities.

At a town hall hosted by Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen to discuss solutions to behavioral health in the community, several attendees raised concerns about the impact the program 287(g) has on the mental health of immigrant families.

“There are mothers and fathers who have conversations with their kids before they go to school about a program called 287(g),” said Giovanny Torres of United Fort Worth, a grassroots coalition.

He claimed conversations regarding immigration status among families create mental and emotional anguish.

The immigration program 287(g) allows local law enforcement agencies to partner with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

Torres questioned Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn about immigrant families’ mental stability when it comes to local law enforcement partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Shortly after Torres talked about his concerns, a group of protesters raised their voices in the room, chanting “287(g) separates families." Migrants United, Raices and North Texas Dream Team were among the advocacy groups that attended the meeting.

The groups were eventually escorted out of the building.

“I do want to open the invitation to this group," said Sheriff Waybourn after the forum. Waybourn clarified that 287(g) is enforced only in the county’s correctional facility and detainees "have to do their time with Texas before they’re ever considered for deportation.”

According to the sheriff, there are currently 12 participating officers in the program. Tarrant County partnered with ICE in 2017 to participate in this immigration initiative.

United Fort Worth submitted a public records request in April to the Sheriff’s Office and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office concerning 287(g) in Tarrant County Jail.

Mindia Whittier led the group in the request, but was referred to the Texas Attorney General for a ruling.

“We consider this town hall another opportunity to press Sheriff Waybourn to stop hiding behind the AG as an excuse to avoid transparency regarding how 287(g) is being administered in Tarrant County,” said Whittier in a written statement.

The meeting planned to address behavioral health in different public sectors and narrow down how local government entities can work closely with the community to solve this issue.

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