Tarrant County Commissioners voted Tuesday to extend the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The program, known as 287(g), allows deputies to train and act as ICE agents, such as checking on a jail inmate’s immigration status.
More than 80 people signed up to speak at the meeting, the majority of them in opposition.
Still, the measure passed 3-2 with Republican commissioners outvoting the two Democrats.
County Judge Glen Whitley criticized U.S. immigration laws and expressed support for undocumented immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship. But he said that didn’t keep him from supporting 287(g).
“If it stops one person from being assaulted, if it stops one person from being domestic violence,” Whitley said. “Then I can tell you if it was a relative of mine, if it was a friend of mine, then I would look at that and say I’m glad I did it.”
Before the vote, Commissioner Roy Brooks explained why he didn’t support the agreement, despite having supported it in the past.
“I oppose it because symbolism matters,” Brooks said. “We proved last week by voting to remove a monument from the courthouse lawn that symbols can oppress.”
Brooks referred to the commission’s decision to remove a monument commemorating Confederate soldiers.
Other opponents of 287(g) said the program is unnecessary, that it leads to racial profiling and spreads fear among immigrants.
Felicia Hernandez, a teacher in Tarrant County, talked about her immigrant students.
“My students should not have to live in fear that families will be ripped apart and they will be left to fend for themselves because their parent or guardian was pulled over for a minor traffic violation that then result in their arrest,” Hernandez said.
Supporters of 287(g) say deputies receive proper training to avoid profiling and they argue the program keeps criminals off the streets.
Tarrant County entered into the agreement with ICE in 2017. Commissioners renewed it last year and the contract was set to expire at the end of this month.
Currently, seven sheriff’s deputies are trained and working as part of the program, in addition to performing their other duties.
Tarrant is one of about two dozen Texas counties enrolled in 287(g).