Nacogdoches County sheriff hears latest on immigration issues

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Computerized fingerprinting follows every arrest. In an instant a person's immigration status is tracked.

"We get a print out from the state and it does have immigration information on there," explained assistant jail administrator, Lt. Beth Owens as someone was being booked into the Nacogdoches County Jail.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says the program has led to more than 41,000 deportations of illegal immigrants nationwide.

"While that burden currently is in existence on local law enforcement in the jail setting, it's not incumbent on peace officers that are out patrolling," explained Sheriff Thomas Kerss of Nacogdoches County.

Kerss knows a rally for change is underway . He's just back from a Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition Conference on immigration issues.

"From the position I serve in as a co-chair for the sheriff's legislative committee, I've been told by some elected officials they fully anticipate seeing a similar bill to the one that was passed in Arizona brought before the Texas legislature," shared Kerss.

Kerss pointed out local law enforcement has an obligation to seek a balance in immigration reform. The question is will the fiscal burder new immigration laws create be offset by the benefit of any additional security.

More than half of the registered voters in Texas back enacting legislation similar to Arizona's , according to a poll for five major Texas newspapers.

How proposed laws are interpreted is important, according to Kerss. "And something people forget, that what we're really focusing on is the nationality of an individual, not their ethnic background," Kerss said.

A smart reminder emphasized during last week's conference since the number one criticism of most any immigration check program is it leads to racial profiling.

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