Hidalgo County Jail and ICE collaboration by the numbers
More than 6,000 immigrants were deported from Hidalgo County jail between June 2009 and July 2014 as a result of Hidalgo County Jail collaborating with federal immigration authorities, according to official statistics released by ICE(1).
Of these, 4,274, or 66.7%, are non-L1 immigrants. This means that a full two thirds did not fall within ICE’s definition of a “Level 1” priority for deportation.
The one third who do fall into the Level 1 designation by the Department of Homeland Security include immigrants who have committed such non-violent and relatively minor offenses as theft, filing a false tax return, and failing to appear in court. Though some have committed serious offenses, many are considered "aggravated felons" according to immigration law alone, having committed an offense that is neither aggravated nor a felony.
These numbers become alarming once we consider that these deportations, almost 100 a month, represent families being torn apart.
Rather than serving time for their offense and being released, these individuals are instead turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. They are ripped from their communities, families, jobs and homes, regardless of how minor their offense. Deportation becomes a second punishment, often times after initial punishment has already been completed.
In reality what we are talking about is a situation in the Hidalgo County Jail that tears apart families for relatively minor offenses. They are not considered priorities by the Department of Homeland Security, yet our county jail allows them to be deported.
This despite that the County Sheriff's department is not required to turn these individuals over to ICE. The Sheriff's department has the power to review each individual request and determine whether the person in question has a violent or otherwise significant criminal history before agreeing to give them over to immigration authorities.
LUPE, along with partners within the Immigration Working Group of the RGV Equal Voice Network, will be looking more closely at this situation with an eye for ways that the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office can change it's policy to prevent needless deportations that devastate Valley families.