Houston would be required to add thousands of police officers if an immigration bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law, Chief Harold Hurtt told members of a House subcommittee yesterday, the Houston Chronicle reports. “We would need between 2,000 and 2,500 more officers for immigration enforcement,” Hurtt said. The House legislation conflicts with a Senate bill, backed by President Bush, that would tighten border security, create a guest worker program, and provide a path to citizenship for at least some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country.
Hurtt and City Councilman Adrian Garcia took aim at a provision in the House bill that would cut federal funding to police departments that refuse to enforce immigration laws. Hurtt called the provision “misguided and wrong,” saying immigration enforcement would draw police away from more serious crimes. Garcia said immigration enforcement would turn a 15-minute traffic stop into an hourlong ordeal and add paperwork, as officers were forced to comply with laws preventing them from stopping people solely because of race or ethnicity. Among those supporting police enforcement was Carrie Ruiz, 53, of Houston, who testified that a Venezuelan illegally in the country stabbed her daughter to death in 1999 and avoided prosecution by fleeing to his homeland.