While a growing number of police agencies have received federal training to enforce immigration laws, Houston won’t join them, says the Houston Chronicle. At least 28 state, county, and local law enforcement departments have taken training to make immigration arrests and process illegal immigrants for deportation. More than 70 others are on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement waiting list for training. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says his department won’t be taking on ICE duties any time soon. Hurtt said enforcing immigration law in Houston would tie up officers and add long delays to police response times.
“Local police don’t want to be immigration officers, they want to be able to enforce (local) laws,” Hurtt told a state legislative committee yesterday. He said police don’t know the number of illegal immigrants in the Houston area, but estimates range from 250,000 to 500,000. “That’s a major city in itself,” he said. “If we had to enforce immigration laws the response time to emergency calls – which now we have around five-minute response time –could possibly go, with our present resources, go to 30 or 45 minutes. And I don’t think that’s acceptable to citizens of Houston.” Louise Whiteford, president of Texans for Immigration Reform, said Hurtt is following “the same old party line. It’s political, it would take a stand on immigration and they would rather not address that. There would be repercussions from people about enforcing immigration law.” She said trained immigration officers could take criminal immigrants off Houston’s streets, which could relieve the police workload.