Non-Arrest Bonds No Longer Issued to Immigrants in Harris County, Texas

• E-mail Maggie Lineback

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Last week, I told you about what’s going on in Irving, Texas — jailers calling immigration enforcement agents to verify the immigration status of everyone in the jail. This week, we're working on a story that's along similar lines.

Harris County (Houston) has recently made a change in one of its policies. Like many jails, the Harris County detention facility is dealing with overcrowding. To ease this, many counties offer what's called "non-arrest" bonds. On relatively minor offenses, you avoid being booked through the jail and instead pay money as a guarantee you'll show up for your court date.

Juan Felix Salinas is an illegal immigrant. He was out on a non-arrest bond when police say he drove drunk and killed a family of three. The case drew a lot of attention in Houston. Harris County has now decided not to offer non-arrest bonds to immigrants — that's any immigrant, whether they are here legally or not.

The county sheriff says this forces all immigrants to be processed through the jail and allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents the opportunity to check their immigration status. Only ICE agents can check immigration status and start deportation proceedings.

Critics say the policy will exacerbate the overcrowding problem and take cops away from more serious crimes.

Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.