Under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may enter into agreements with states or political subdivisions thereof to have state or local officers cooperate with the DHS in matters of immigration enforcement. President Donald Trump issued two Executive Orders on January 25, 2017, providing for the expansion of section 287(g) agreements [see article]. On February 20, 2017, policy guidance to this effect was announced in two memorandums issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly [see article]. The use of section 287(g) agreements had waned during the Obama Administration.
On February 22, 2017, just two days after Secretary Kelly issued the two DHS memorandums providing for the expansion of the use of section 287(g) agreements, Aaron Barker of Clich2Houston reported that Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez opted his department out of the section 287(g) program [link].1 Harris County, located in Texas, is notable for encompassing Houston.
Although the timing seems related, the article quotes Sheriff Gonzalez as attributing his decision to cost concerns. He noted that his department was spending $675,000 to staff and run the program, and that he felt the money could be better allocated elsewhere. Furthermore, the Sheriff noted that only two other counties in Texas — Jackson and Lubbock — are currently engaged in section 287(g) agreements. Nevertheless, the Sheriff stated that Harris County will continue to provide the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with access to all relevant databases, and that his department will comply with any requests made by the ICE.
Despite the new guidance issued by Secretary Kelly, it remains unclear how many jurisdictions will opt to enter into section 287(g) agreements with the DHS. Additionally, it remains to be seen what form new agreements will take and the extent to which state and local authorities will be given latitude to participate in immigration enforcement activities. For the time being at least, Harris County will no longer be a participant in a section 287(g) agreement. However, the Sheriff made clear that Harris County will not not otherwise limit its cooperation with the ICE.