Members of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition say Nueces County Sheriffs shouldn’t be enforcing federal immigration law.
“We did not elect our sheriff to do the job of the federal government,” said Dr. Claudia Rueda, Co-Coordinator of the CCIC. “He works for us, and that wasn’t the job we elected him to do.”
Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin disagrees. He says enforcing federal laws is his job.
“We enforce federal firearms laws, we enforce federal narcotics statutes, we enforce all kinds of federal laws in addition to state laws” said Kaelin.
The Immigration Coalition says Sheriff Kaelin promised them he wouldn’t enter into a 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But in January, Sheriff Kaelin did sign a 287(g) agreement.
287(g) refers to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996. Under 287(g), local law enforcement agencies can provide immigration enforcement to ICE on a voluntary basis.
The Immigration Coalition says they’re simply looking for transparency from Sheriff Kaelin. More specifically, they want to know how 287(g) works.
Under 287(g), anyone booked in the county jail will have their immigration status checked. If they’re here illegally, ICE has 48 hours to pick them up, once state charges are settled.
“People may be caught up for very minor violations of the law,” said Rueda. “Does that mean their lives should be ruined? More importantly, does that mean they should be separated from their families?”
Rueda believes 287(g) increases jail costs. Meanwhile, Sheriff Kaelin argues undocumented immigrants cost taxpayers more.
“Your tax dollars go amok in spending resources on people that are not citizens of this country,” said Kaelin.
According to Kaelin, 32 people have been turned over to ICE from Nueces County since mid-March. That was without 287(g), which officially went on-line Monday when the jail got access to ICE’s system.
Kaelin says his office isn’t going to actively look for undocumented immigrants, 287(g) just expedites the deportation process.