As Houston’s Harris County meshes into a Homeland Security Department program to accelerate the deportation of illegal immigrants locked up in U.S. jails, suburban counties fear it could overburden their smaller staffs, the Houston Chronicle reports. The department’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has seven Houston-area counties in its Criminal Alien Program, allowing jails to report each inmate’s immigration status. ICE will train local law enforcement in immigration duties and equip county jails with technology that would give them access to the ICE fingerprint database.
Suburban counties worry about the strain caused by having members of a smaller department absent for the training. The number of illegal immigrants in suburban county jails varies, from 317 over the course of a year in populous Fort Bend County to fewer than 10 on any given day in smaller counties. Nationally, deportations have risen from 178,177 in fiscal 2005 to 280,523 in fiscal 2007. The ICE training takes officers away from their departments for at least a month. Athough ICE pays for the training and provides housing, departments must continue to pay salaries for the absent officers.