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No quorum for Lawrence’s Council meeting on 287(g)

Good.

Three City Council members fell short of forcing a vote Wednesday on the city’s participation in a controversial immigration screening program after the rest of their colleagues skipped a special meeting.

The city secretary counted only three members — Toni Lawrence, Anne Clutterbuck and Mike Sullivan — present at the afternoon special meeting before it was called off for lack of a quorum. To officially meet on the issue, they would have needed at least eight members of council present.

After the aborted meeting, City Council member Pam Holm joined the trio at a news conference calling for Mayor Bill White to hold a public meeting on whether the city should participate in the 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants in the jails.

The lackluster turnout came as little surprise as several council members reported last week that they had scheduling conflicts. Others had called for an informal boycott of the rare special meeting, accusing Lawrence of political “grandstanding” on the sensitive immigration issue.

Lawrence, who is campaigning to become the next Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner, denied calling the meeting for political gain, saying, “I have never grandstanded in the six years I’ve been on the council. I’m very passionate about this.”

Remember when Council Member Lawrence walked out of a Council meeting along with several of her colleagues while then-CM/candidate for Congress Shelley Sekula Gibbs was giving a speech that demanded the city change its immigration policies? Lawrence said she was “embarrassed” to be in the same room as Gibbs was. Funny how
running a race as a Republican changes one’s perspective, isn’t it? And as Stace notes, the claim about never grandstanding is a bit shaky, too.

Now I’m willing to have a real debate about the 287(g) program, as long as it is a substantive debate and not a political stunt. Seems to me we’re going to have to have this debate sooner or later, since most of the Mayoral candidates have talked about closing the city jail and outsourcing that function to the county, where the 287(g) program is being used. We’ve got the County’s example, now let’s learn from it. How many of the inmates they’ve referred to the feds really were “dangerous”? How many left families behind? How can we objectively quantify the effect, good and bad, of doing this? When we get those answers, we can talk about what the city should be doing.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for covering this, if I could recomend a couple articles and resources about the negative effects 287g may have in Houston, I’d like to list:

    A great report by the think-tank Justice Strategies about the 287g and the bad things that happen when you let local police enforce immigration law:
    http://www.justicestrategies.org/2009/local-democracy-ice-why-state-and-local-governments-have-no-business-federal-immigration-law-en

    A report by the ACLU and Berkley Law school on how in Irving Texas, having an agreement with ICE in the prison led to an increase in arresting Latinos for traffic and other minor offenses:
    http://blog.aclu.org/2009/09/18/cap-enables-aggressive-racial-profiling-in-irving-texas/

    and this Chronicle article about the Secure Communities program, which I understand is supposed to be less draconian that 287g:
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/immigration/6526211.html
    “Nationally, only 15 percent of the 6,130 suspects that authorities filed paperwork to detain after finding a match in the system were classified as “aggravated felons” — the agency’s primary target group. The percentage was even lower in Harris County, with fewer that one in 10 suspects falling into that category, according to ICE statistics from late October to the end of April, the most recent available.”

    a 90% rate of getting the wrong kind of folks not really very good. This is not a crime fighting tool, this is an anti-immigrant program.

  2. JJMB says:

    Mayor White already canned the 287(g) program by terminating discussions with the feds and missing the sign-up deadline, without letting Council know that’s what he was really doing, all the while saying to Council and publicly that the City was going to participate. Now THAT’S a political stunt, all because he is running for the Senate.

    All the 287(g) program would do is check ALL people who are arrested and IN JAIL because they are suspected of OTHER CRIMES (not of being illegal). What Sekula-Gibbs was demanding was an on-the-street program to find illegals — no one on Council has said they want to spend even 2 minutes debating whether we should do that. Very unfair of you to attack Lawrence as a hypocrite for that. She is totally different than Sekula-Gibbs. She is taking a very reasonable stance, the same old taken by the Latino Democrat County Sheriff, all but one Democrat commissioners, and all 3 Democrat mayor candidates.

    Those of us who don’t want the police to spend any time looking for illegals on the streets are shooting ourselves in the foot by resisting checks of those who have done something to get arrested and taken to jail. I just don’t have sympathy for spending any time trying to help those illegals stay in the country.

  3. martha says:

    I heard 287(g) is on the agenda for November 4th – a consolidated Council meeting (no meeting on the 3rd, as that is Election Day.) That’s the forum for public discussion. The public can speak and the Council members can discuss. That’s how this works. It’s really just that simple.