Widow of Houston Officer Says Immigration Policies Left by ICE Official Endanger Force

Fox News, June 27, 2010

The widow of a Houston police officer killed by an illegal immigrant said Sunday that the policies left in place in her city by a top immigration official in the Obama administration continue to put officers in danger.

That official, former Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, is taking a job to oversee partnerships between federal and local officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. However, during his tenure in Houston he resisted enforcing immigration law and criticized ICE’s key program that draws on local law enforcement’s support. Hurtt is now facing a lawsuit over those policies filed by Joslyn Johnson, whose husband, Rodney, was killed in 2006 by a once-deported illegal immigrant who had been arrested three times.

Joslyn Johnson, herself a sergeant in the Houston force, told Fox News that the policies that kept local officers from checking the immigration status of suspects remain in place and pose a risk to her and her colleagues.

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Johnson is suing to seek a change in policy so that federal immigration databases are widely available to local departments. Johnson’s original court petition–naming Hurtt as well as the city and the police department–claimed that the department’s failure to discover the gunman’s immigration status and report him to federal authorities enabled him to stay “at large” in the country.

She and her attorney link the way immigration law was handled in Houston directly to Rodney Johnson’s death.

“We’re suing the chief of police because he refused to implement a policy that allowed Sgt. Johnson to communicate with ICE when a police officer detained a suspect on the streets,” attorney Ben Dominguez said.

Dominguez earlier told FoxNews.com his client was “shocked” that Hurtt had been tapped to coordinate programs he had criticized in Houston.

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Years after the Johnson killing, Hurtt announced he would participate in the federal 287(g) program, which gives local police authority to initiate deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants linked to serious crimes. But then the city backed off the program and linked up with ICE on a separate one that has local officials run immigration checks on suspects once they are in jail.

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Aside from the Houston case, Hurtt’s policies have been blamed for enabling illegal immigrants to kill two police officers and seriously injure another in Phoenix before he left in 2005.

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