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Illegal Immigration and Jail Overcrowding: A Tale of Two Counties

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The disastrous state of the Harris County jail has a high corelation to Sheriff Ed Gonzolez’s approach to illegal immigration, particularly his rejection of an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement program known as Section 287(g). Meanwhile, neighboring Montgomery County stayed in the 287(g) program. The stark differences in outcomes raise questions about the effectiveness of immigration enforcement strategies at the local level.


In a recent interview with CDF, Montgomery County Texas Sheriff Rand Henderson explains how the 287(g) program enables his office to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and process removable aliens arrested for criminal law violations. He underscores the crucial role of a secure border in protecting national sovereignty, upholding the rule of law and preventing criminal activity linked to insufficient border security. Sheriff Henderson notes, "If you've got criminals that have an immigration status, and you've got ICE that's willing to deport them, I think it's a good partnership. It's a force multiplier. Together we are stronger than the sum of our individual parts, and working with ICE makes us all stronger."


In 2017, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez fulfilled his campaign promise to shut down the 287(g) program, a partnership with ICE allowing the deportation of undocumented immigrants booked at the county jail. Gonzalez claimed a withdrawal from 287(g) would make the community safer. However, a recent "Houston Public Media" report highlights alarming statistics: since Gonzalez pulled out of 287 (g) in 2017 in-custody jail deaths were up 50% last year and over 100% in 2022. The jail is consistently overcrowded and that same Houston Public Media story says, “...the overcrowded facility continues to struggle with violence, death and drug smuggling.” The most recent Texas DPS statistics show sexual assault arrests are up 57% while murder arrests have more than doubled, up 147% since Sheriff Gonzalez rejected the 287(g) program. That same DPS report shows the same arrests in Montgomery County have either stayed the same or dropped.


Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson has upheld the 287(g) program, expelling illegal immigrants and lowering the jail population. Sheriff Henderson, in a recent interview with Citizens Defending Freedom, described the program as a "force multiplier" in collaboration with ICE since 2017. Even though the Biden administration has curtailed use of the program, it still is effective at reducing jail population, according to Sheriff Henderson.


Tragically, the Biden administration appears to be blocking approval of new entrants to the program. However, Citizens Defending Freedom encourages citizens to check the ICE website. Residents in areas without 287(g) program participation should inquire about their sheriff offices’ stance on the program. Applying for the program would send a strong message that your county wants to take steps to improve safety both in the jail and in the community at large.


About Citizens Defending Freedom:

Founded in 2021, Citizens Defending Freedom is a non-profit organization that strategically operates in counties across America to help citizens defend their faith and freedom, all while fighting for transparency in local government. Currently, Citizens Defending Freedom has official counties in Florida, Georgia, and Texas. The group is rapidly expanding its footprint and expects to grow into one of America’s largest political nonprofits. Click here to learn more about Citizens Defending Freedom.

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