By Susan McFarland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fort Worth--Out of 26 offenders detained Sunday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 23 were working off sentences for DWI convictions.
The probationers were detained as they reported for labor detail at a Tarrant County Jail facility north of downtown. It was part of a three-day ICE operation that targeted illegal immigrants with criminal convictions who are deportable to their countries of origin, said ICE Dallas region spokesman Carl Rusnok.
Of those detained, 23 are from Mexico and three from Honduras.
Out of the 23 DWI convictions, two have multiple DWI convictions and one was given an enhanced sentence for driving with a 15-year-old minor, and four have criminal convictions for possessing a controlled substance, Rusnok said.
Rusnok said three of those arrested have been previously deported and will have their previous final orders of removal reinstated; six will be voluntarily returned to Mexico; and 12 have been issued notices to appear before a federal immigration judge, who will determine their fate.
The remaining five are still in ICE custody pending disposition of their cases, the spokesman said.
“During this operation, we removed from our streets 23 criminal aliens who had DWI convictions,” Simona L. Flores, field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Dallas, said in a statement. “This three-day operation literally made our communities safer and our streets safer to drive.”
During fiscal 2016, ICE conducted 240,255 removals nationwide; 92 percent of those had previously been convicted of a crime, Rusnok said.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn has pledged to crack down on undocumented immigrants, especially those convicted of crimes. After he took office in January, he applied to take part in a federal program that would train jailers to screen for undocumented immigrants in the Tarrant County Jail.
Two ICE agents work at the Tarrant County Jail during the day Monday through Friday, his chief of staff, David McClelland, said Sunday.
“If someone gets booked into jail Friday night and bonds out on Saturday, ICE never has a chance to screen them,” he said. “I don’t believe the people detained were ever screened by ICE when they came into our jail.”
Anita Quinones, a local activist who tutors immigrant children, said Sunday: “These individuals were following the law by showing up to do their community service. In the act of doing the right thing they were rounded up like cattle. No good deed goes unpunished.”
Maria Robles of Arlington, a bilingual organizer with North Texas group Faith, said Sunday’s roundup is the type of crackdown that immigrants fear.
“This type of collaboration is what tears at the relationship and trust between our community and law enforcement,” she said in a message. “We will continue to stand in solidarity to ensure our community’s rights are respected by continuing to organize and bring ‘Know Your Rights’ sessions to the Fort Worth community.
“Unfortunately in these types of situations there is little or nothing that can be done in the moment, but there is plenty of room to empower our community with helping them recognize they too have rights under our Constitution regardless of immigration status,” Robles said.
Staff writer Diane Smith contributed to this report.
Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1