Amarillo sees increase in ICE detainees

Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE detainees in Amarillo has increased this past year.

According to the Randall County Sheriff's Office, 235 ICE prisoners were booked in 2016.

That number of detainees increased to 446 in 2017.

Randall County authorities want to stress that they are only a holding facility for ICE and that those prisoners are only here for two days at the most.

They added that this doesn't mean they are seeing a rise in undocumented immigrants in our area.

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Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas agrees with that statement, saying they're not looking to make more arrests.

"None of the agencies are going out just looking for an undocumented immigrant," said Sheriff Thomas. "They have to have committed some other crime."

Sheriff Thomas said the offender's state charges have to be taken care of before they notify ICE.

"Once that's done or if they bond out of jail on the state charge, then we notify ICE who then transfers them to Randall County because they have the federal contract," said Sheriff Thomas.

He said some refugees may come from a culture where what we consider illegal is the norm for them, such as domestic violence. And the increase could be because more people are reporting it.

"We're getting more awareness out to the people on what is illegal and what's illegal as far as domestic violence those kind of things and I think that's getting reported to us more," said Sheriff Thomas.

Local immigration attorney Brad Parkin said he has seen a rise in detainee cases.

"It is the norm to be detained now," said Parkin.

Parkin said it's due largely in part to changes the Trump administration has made.

"Back in 2016 they had a tool called prosecutorial discretion," said Parkin. "Meaning they would look at the immigrant and they would see his criminal history and they would see his ties to the community, his family."
 
Parkin said if authorities felt like that person was a low priority, they would be released.

However, that's not the case anymore.

"When President Trump came on board, his administration, they limited that to a prosecutorial discretion meaning if anybody broke any type of law including traffic laws that they have to be mandatory detained," said Parkin.

Parkin said just because undocumented immigrants are detained doesn't mean they will be deported.

He said they will get their due process and then immigration attorneys will determine whether they will put up a defense for them.

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