I'd identified that problem earlier when Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas proposed such a change as part of his primary re-election campaign. Now the Travis County Sheriff is facing criticism over the same issue from civil rights advocates and his commissioners court, reports KVUE-TV:
Jim Harrington, the Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, says he's skeptical.
"The county jail is already overflowing," says Harrington. "And the feds are going to build another jail for Travis County to account for all of these people that will be detained? No chance that will happen."
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe says it's a controversial issue, and he wants to wait until he hears from all sides before making a final decision.
"I don't think we would eagerly promote immigration holds on people especially for minor offenses," says Biscoe.
So far Travis Sheriff Greg Hamilton is sticking to his guns, but the decision to increase immigration holds for minor offenses at a time when the local jail is full makes little sense to me. As Harrington points out, it's not like the feds will pay to build us more jail space.Similarly, in Dallas proposals by GOP Sheriffs candidates for a similar arrangement met with skepticism from the commissioners court who would have to find the money to pay for extra bed space. Said Commissioner John Wiley Price, according to the Dallas News, "I don't need anything that's going to increase the jail population."
In Austin the debate has devolved into accusations of whether this practice constitutes racial profiling. To me, that's not nearly as strong an argument as emphasizing the immediate, pragmatic issue that none of these jails - in Austin, Dallas or Houston - have any extra space for
It's one thing to suffer a jail overcrowding problem because of the decisions of the local judicial system; it's quite another for Sheriffs to seek out new categories of optional inmates to fill up their jails volitionally.