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Immigration advocates call on Williamson County Commissioners Court to end controversial 287(g) deportation program

June 22, 2020

Agreement’s renewal comes in midst of fallout over Sheriff Robert Chody’s handling of Javier Ambler case and decision to renew Live PD agreement

AUSTIN — Today, immigration advocates sent a letter to the Williamson County Commissioners Court calling for the termination of County’s 287(g) deportation program with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The current agreement was set to expire at the end of June. Under 287(g), Williamson County Sheriff’s Office delegates officers to be trained and authorized to identify and process detained immigrants for removal on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The Williamson County 287(g) agreement was originally signed in February 2018 and renewed in June 2019 by Sheriff Robert Chody. Neither the original agreement nor the renewed memorandum of understanding was brought before the Commissioners Court for approval despite guidance from the Texas Supreme Court and analysis from the Texas Attorney General stating that the Commissioners Court is the governing body and has sole authority to enter contracts for the county, absent a specific statute to the contrary. There is no item currently on the Commissioners Court agenda for June 23rd or June 30th regarding the 287(g) agreement despite its imminent expiration.

“The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department should not be trusted to handle this matter given its record of prioritizing TV ratings over the safety of Black people and immigrant communities,” said Bethany Carson of Grassroots Leadership. “The Williamson County Commissioners Court has an opportunity to stand up for what is right and stop spending its limited public health and safety resources on this failed deportation policy that separates families and terrorizes communities.

Williamson is one of 75 counties in the nation, 25 in Texas, with similar 287(g) agreements, all of which are set to expire June 30. All of the Texas agreements have been created during Trump’s presidency

The 287(g) program is a contract with ICE that can be terminated at any time, whether or not Sheriff Chody has already added his signature to the renewal agreement. In the letter, advocates call on Commissioners to end the county's participation in the 287(g) program even if the Sheriff has already renewed the memorandum of understanding.

“The 287g program sows mistrust and fear in the community, wastes county resources, encourages racial profiling, and generally makes our community less safe,” said Emily Timm, Co-Executive Director of the Workers Defense Project. “Williamson County families deserve better and Sheriff Chody’s shameful actions around the PD Live show and excessive use of force have shown he prioritizes his own fame over public safety. It’s up to the Commissioners to do what is right for the people of Williamson County and end this flawed program now.”

Signatories to the letter include Free Souls Church, Grassroots Leadership, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Workers Defense Project.