New law helps HPD lend a hand to ICE

From now on in Harris County, only US citizens are allowed “non-arrest bonds”, with which they can commit minor crimes without facing arrest. Illegal immigrants will not be allowed this, and as such, will be more prone to deportation.

Sept. 8, 2007, 8:47AM
Harris County changes arrest policy for illegal immigrants

 

© 2007 The Associated Press

HOUSTON — Illegal immigrants in Harris County can no longer avoid formal booking into jail for some smaller crimes, a change victims advocates say closes a loophole that allowed suspects to dodge deportation.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office implemented the change more than a week after an illegal immigrant from Mexico, who had been free on a “non-arrest” bond, was accused of drunkenly smashing into another car Aug. 11 and killing three people.

“Non-arrest” bonds are sometimes given in cases where warrants are issued for relatively minor crimes. By paying them, suspects avoid being booked into jail — and being asked about their citizenship.

Harris County Sgt. D.M. Mackey said the decision to change the policy was designed to better help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents identify illegal immigrants.

The new policy “will improve the opportunity for ICE to identify removable aliens,” Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

U.S. citizens will still be issued “non-arrest” bonds, Mackey said.

The department changed its policy Aug. 22, only 11 days after illegal immigrant Felix Salinas was charged with three counts of intoxication manslaughter for an interstate crash that killed a young Houston couple and a 2-year-old boy.

Police said Salinas, 41, had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. At the time of the accident, he was free on a $1,500 “non-arrest” bond paid in April for allegedly shaking his wife.

Victim advocates hailed the new policy.

“We certainly applaud the change,” said Andy Kahan, director of Houston Mayor Bill White’s crime victims office.

ICE has put a hold on Salinas so that he will not be released from custody before trial.

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