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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    County opposes series of proposed immigration bills


    Saying it would cost taxpayers money and tie up police, El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday voted to oppose a series of state bills that would require police to make sure people are in the United States legally.

    Commissioner Dan Haggerty voted against the resolution, saying the bills have merit.

    Commissioners went on record against four bills currently pending in the Texas House of Representatives. Critics see them as an attempt to demonize immigrants at taxpayer expense.

    “”It just makes me mad that we’re trying to become Arizona Jr.,”” said William Ellis, executive administrative officer for the county Sheriff’s Office. He was referring to controversial laws recently passed in Arizona that critics say discriminate against Hispanics.

    One Texas bill, House Bill 12, would order cities and counties to allow their police officers to check the immigration status of anybody they arrest or detain. As with the other bills, it would place immigration enforcement in the hands of local officials, said Rosemary Neill, Family and Community Services director.

    “”Each and every one of these requires local law enforcement to carry out the duties of immigration enforcement,”” she said, referring to an area of law that traditionally has been handled by the federal government.

    Two other bills that the commissioners oppose, HB 623 and HB 183, would require the Sheriff’s Office to verify that prisoners are in the country legally within 48 hours of their arrest or before they

    are released, whichever comes first.

    That would have the effect of keeping some people in jail longer and crowding out prisoners El Paso County holds for the federal government, said Assistant County Attorney Holly Lytle. Federal reimbursements for such prisoners are a significant source of revenue for the Sheriff’s Office.

    “”The more we can’t take federal prisoners, those are dollars going down the drain,”” she said.

    The fourth bill commissioners oppose is HB 875, also requiring jailers to check prisoners’ immigration status but under more limited circumstances.

    Commissioner Anna Perez said that making sheriff’s deputies responsible for enforcing immigration laws “”puts a huge burden on the department.””

    But Haggerty suggested illegal immigration should be a concern for the Sheriff’s Office.

    “”Well, it is a crime,”” he said.

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