Under fire over its policy toward illegal immigrants, the Houston Police Department has adopted new procedures to allow more cooperation with federal agents trying to catch criminals living in the country illegally, the Houston Chronicle reports. Officers still will not inquire about the immigration status of people they haven’t arrested, so the changes are unlikely to quiet critics who call Houston a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.
Changes were made fewer than two weeks after the shooting death of police officer Rodney Johnson caused simmering opposition to the department policy to flare anew. An illegal immigrant who previously had been deported is charged in the case. Starting this week, police will hold people detained or arrested for traffic violations or other minor crimes if warrant checks show they are wanted by federal agents for defying an order to leave the country or for returning after being deported in connection with a criminal case. Under existing policy, police generally did not hold such people for federal authorities. Police will allow immigration agents unfettered access to the city’s two jails and officers will start asking all arrestees whether they are citizens. Fingerprints of anyone booked into the jails without proper identification will be checked against a national fingerprint database.