The Jail Where Sandra Bland Died Now Authorized to Detain Undocumented Immigrants

July 18, 2017
ColorLines

The Waller County (Texas) Jail was recently approved for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program—despite failing its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reached an agreement with Waller County to deputize the sheriff’s office for the controversial immigration enforcement program 287(g). Theprogram authorizes deputies to act on the behalf of ICE to arrest and detain people based on their immigration status. In turn, county officials are given broad powers to jumpstart deportation proceedings for immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t have been on the radar of federal agents.

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The Waller County Jail was required to revamp its protocols and provide additional medical care in the wake of Bland’s death. Yet even after those reforms were implemented, major problems continued to persist.

The county jail came under investigation in March after a female prisoner alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a man who was also incarcerated in the jail. The man was performing cleaning duties for the jail at the time of the alleged incident. County officials later acknowledged that the inmate was never authorized to take on those duties in the first place.

The jail later failed its inspection with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, state documents show. Jail staff was found non-compliant in three separate areas, including violations for not keeping male and female inmates separate at all times, unless under direct supervision.

Within days of both the assault and the failed inspection, ICE officials formally approved Waller County’s application to join 287(g).

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Texas activists are now concerned that the program’s loaded background doesn’t help Waller County’s already strained relations between police and people of color. Despite all that the community has been through, particularly after Bland’s death, it’s unclear whether officials have learned their lesson, says Bob Libal, executive director of the Texas-based civil rights groupGrassroots Leadership.

“What 287(g) does is literally turn local police into deportation agents,” Libal added. “That’s obviously profoundly disturbing and certainly seeds distrust with law enforcement.”