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Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn to testify before Congress about immigration

Sheriff Bill Waybourn, a man with a white mustache wearing a black cowboy hat and black sheriff's uniform with a gold star, gestures as he answers a question in front of a microphone.
Yfat Yossifor
Sheriff Bill Waybourn answers a question during a town hall about the deaths at the Tarrant County Jail on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, at the Tarrant County Sub-Courthouse in Arlington.

Republican Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn is scheduled to testify before Congress about immigration issues later this month.

Fort Worth sits several hours away from the nearest U.S.-Mexico border crossing, but Waybourn has focused on border issues throughout his tenure as sheriff. One of his first acts in office was to expand his agency’s role in immigration enforcement.

The county will pay for Waybourn’s trip to D.C., at a cost of about $1,200, according to travel request documents. Waybourn will testify before the House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs, in a hearing about “the criminal element of illegal aliens residing unlawfully in American communities,” the documents state.

"The plethora of drugs that has come in from the cartel will be a big talking point," Waybourn told KERA News on Tuesday.

In 2021, Waybourn hosted a press conference with Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in downtown Fort Worth to discuss fentanyl coming across the border from Mexico. Abbott blamed what he called President Joe Biden’s open border policy, while advocates criticized Abbott for conflating drug smuggling with immigration.

More than half the fentanyl seized at the border is smuggled by U.S. citizens, according to immigration authorities.

The hearing is not listed on federal calendars yet, but Waybourn expects to testify on April 16, he said.

Waybourn has gone to Washington to speak on immigration issues before. At a White House press briefing in 2019, he drew criticism for comments about immigrants who are repeat criminal offenders.

“If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood. These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children,” he said.

Locally, Waybourn has worked to strengthen the relationship between his agency and federal immigration enforcement.

The sheriff’s main job is running the county jail. In 2017, shortly after he took office, Waybourn signed up for a federal program which allows jailers to take on the responsibilities of immigration agents. Some detention officers could flag people for deportation.

The program, called 287(g), is a voluntary agreement between local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

As of May 2023, Tarrant County’s 287(g) agreement was inactive because of understaffing in the Tarrant County jail system, according to ICE.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.