On Tuesday, Tarrant County commissioners voted along party lines to continue participating with the federal government in checking the immigration status of those brought to the county jail. Democrat commissioners organized a fake public uprising, seeking to have President Donald Trump—instead of a locally elected sheriff—enforce this, with growing government spending elsewhere as one of the reasons.

Since 2017, Tarrant County has partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in its Section 287(g) public safety program, named after the applicable section of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act. The program’s Jail Enforcement Model, in which Tarrant participates, is designed to “identify and process removable aliens with criminal or pending criminal charges who are arrested” by state or local law enforcement. Local authorities check the immigration status of inmates who have committed a Class B misdemeanor or a higher offense after they have been booked into jail.

Tuesday, Sheriff Bill Waybourn and his chief of staff, David McClelland, told commissioners that participating in this agreement gives them the discretion to exclude Class C misdemeanors from these checks, a campaign promise of Waybourn’s.

Class C is described as “the least severe type of misdemeanor in the state.”

Waybourn said if someone arrested for a Class C misdemeanor is brought to the jail, he isn’t obligated to investigate their immigration status unless it is already known that the individual in question has an ICE detainer on them.

“[287(g)] gives more control of what we’re going to do,” McClelland told commissioners.

Without 287(g), ICE—which is a federal department under the authority of President Trump and, under Texas law, cannot be prohibited from entering jails—would dictate the criteria.

Last year, commissioners voted along party lines—three Republicans against the two Democrats—to renew the agreement.

This year, Waybourn sought to renew the agreement with ICE “until either party terminates or suspends” it. That would mean commissioners would not review this item yearly.

Commissioner Gary Fickes successfully restored the yearly review.

ICE Out of Tarrant, part of a coalition of left-wing organizations in the county, showed up again this year in opposition. One of the speakers revealed theirs is far from a grassroots movement, but rather is ginned up by Democrat Commissioners Roy Brooks and Devan Allen. “I would personally like to thank Commissioners Allen and Brooks for helping organize this,” one of the speakers for ICE Out of Tarrant said that day.

These forces took a position that would result in the federal government under President Donald Trump—not locally elected Sheriff Waybourn—determining the criteria of immigration checks in Tarrant jails.

Speakers in support of ICE Out’s position revealed that part of their opposition has nothing to do with defending illegal immigrants.

“End 287(g) and better fund the communities you serve,” said Juana Guzman, while wearing an “ICE Out of Tarrant” embroidered T-shirt.

Last year, Commissioner Brooks mentioned taxpayer funds as a reason to oppose this agreement as well.

As with organizations in Dallas exploiting George Floyd’s death, ICE Out and its allies want taxpayer funds spent on growing government programs instead of immigration enforcement—a core service of the government.

“Being here illegally is not law-abiding,” said Chaplain Rich Stoglin, president of the Fredrick Douglass Republicans of Tarrant County. “By not supporting 287(g), we are making our country vulnerable to attacks.”

“We need the structure to make everyone safe,” added naturalized immigrant Vera Sweet.

Despite the best efforts of Democrats and their organizational allies, 287(g) was renewed by a vote of 3-2.

County Judge Glen Whitley, despite his support, revealed he is still no friend to conservatives, as he expressed hope for a future “immigration law that allows a very quick pathway to citizenship to everybody, regardless of where they’re from.”

Commissioners will revisit 287(g) a year from now. Commissioners Brooks and Fickes face re-election this November.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.