Following up on this hint that some changes in Houston’s sanctuary city-status were imminent, here are a couple of stories from KTRH-740 with early details. First this teaser was in a Brent Fuller/Scott Braddock story from Thursday:
The department’s current policy forbids officers from asking about someone’s immigration status, unless they’ve committed at least a Class B misdemeanor. It also prevents officers from inquiring about citizenship if a person has committed no crime.
Both White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt supported that policy. However, White said Wednesday at a City Hall press conference that certain “operational refinements” could still be made. “I think it’s fair game for discussion with a committee,” said White.
Then yesterday some of those refinements came to light in this KTRH story:
[…]if an officer should decide to arrest an individual and bring them to the city jail, “We will be checking fingerprints of Class C offenders,” said City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adrian Garcia. “If there’s information that comes back in relation to questionable immigration status, we will put a ‘hold’ on you until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can investigate.”
Garcia, who helped draft the plan, said they’re trying to seal “gaps” in the system that can occur between booking at the city jail transfer to the Harris County lock-up.
HPD began holding high-level meetings and reviewing its inmate processing procedures after an illegal immigrant allegedly murdered an officer after a traffic stop.
While officers won’t question citizenship status on the street, they will once a person is taken to jail, no matter how minor the crime.
“It shows the pressure they’re under to change,” said Wanda Schultz, Protect Our Citizens. “We are grateful for that. We have been begging them for that much at least for years.”
Sources told 11 News everyone arrested will also now be fingerprinted–even those arrested for minor crimes.
HPD will also be working closely with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to make sure illegal immigrants are not caught and released by police.
Police Chief Harold Hurtt and the mayor are scheduled to make an announcement regarding the change in HPD booking procedures on Sunday.
This policy review comes one week after Houston Police Officer Rodney Johnson was killed in the line of duty.
It’s a step in the right direction. This blog has frequently wondered why a 1992 HPD policy memo is so sacrosanct that it could not even be discussed. It would appear Mayor White realizes that stance is no longer politically viable and he is now willing to consider some modifications.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: We’ll see if this is anything more than an effort to deflect the bad PR that MayorWhiteChiefHurtt have been receiving. We know how Mayor White and his press shop hate bad PR.
Despite all of his talk of including Council on major policy decisions, Mayor White and his out-of-town/soft-on-crime police chief seem to make most important decisions with no input from Council, whether it has to do with the sanctuary directive or the no-chase policy.
Mayor White and Councilmember Garcia (whose committee would presumably start the discussion) should bring the matter to Council for hearings. While Doctor-Councilwoman Sekula-Gibbs’ raising the issue the day of Officer Johnson’s funeral was crass and opportunistic, one can sense her frustration over Mayor White’s absolute refusal to bring this matter to Council for input (although her timing could have been much better). Why in the world are Mayor White and his soft-on-crime police chief so scared to have a conversation about this important issue?