To 31-year-old Jessica Ramirez, the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office's agreement to participate in 287(g) last June felt personal.
Ramirez, a DACA recipient, was born in Mexico City. She and her family came to the United States in 2001 as undocumented immigrants. But after a traffic stop in 2014, her father was deported. Two years later, her mother followed him, leaving Ramirez alone in the U.S.
"The last time I saw my mother, she told me that if anything ever happens to her and I can't go, to not worry, that she understands," Ramirez recalled. "Every day I pray to God that never happens."
The program 287(g) refers to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows state or local law enforcement agencies to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It gives designated local officers the power to “perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers.”
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According to an open records request filed by the Star-Telegram, in January 2018 there were 260 inmates in the Tarrant County Jail with immigration detainers.
Because 287(g) was signed into agreement with little public input, according to Mindia Whittier, a member of United Fort Worth, the group decided to hand-deliver open records requests for documents related to 287(g) from the Sheriff's Office and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.
Hand-delivering the requests about immigration enforcement activity was the group's way of asking for more transparency about the issue.
Seven members of United Fort Worth waited for about 10 minutes in the waiting room of Sheriff Bill Waybourn's office before Chief Randy Cundiff greeted the group. Cundiff said Waybourn was happy to meet with them in his office, but Whittier declined, saying that they first wanted to be more informed about the agreement. She added that the group would be happy to meet with Waybourn once they received the documents they were requesting. At the DA's office, Whittier submitted the request to a staff member.
One of United Fort Worth's main concerns about 287(g) is that it's partially funded by taxpayer dollars. While ICE covers the training program for officers, the state and local governments pay most of the costs necessary for the program to work.
This includes travel, housing and per diem for officers during training, along with salaries, overtime, other personnel costs and administrative supplies, according to the American Immigration Council.
Waybourn told the Race and Culture Task Force on Monday that there are currently 12 officers who have received training and now work in the Tarrant County Jail.