SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - In March 2017, the Smith County Sheriff's Office was accepted into the Immigration Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program.
That allows deputies to immediately identify illegal immigrants. Immigration lawyer Jose Sanchez said one concern about the 287(g) program is the fear it can instill in the immigrant community.
"When [police officers] are investigating a homicide or drug bust [...] the community that's not legal, [...] they're not going to want to corporate with the officers because they're scared that they might get involved, and then they're going to call immigration," he said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has 287(g) agreements with 78 law enforcement agencies across the nation.
"We can put the detainers on the illegal immigrant ourselves rather than having to wait for ICE," Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.
An immigration detainer was placed on Josue Alejandro Prado-Ramirez, the suspect in the hit and run last week that killed 11-year-old Damarion Williams.
"It takes a serious crime to put a detainer on somebody; we're not putting detainers on people with no driver's license and minor crimes like that," he said.
Sanchez said he's seen more clients seeking help with detainers since the program came to Smith County last year.
"We get calls every day of people getting arrested and having ICE detainers put on them, so it's not just Smith County but it's also for other violations not just DWI and above; I've had several for no driver's license, for warrants," he said.
Smith said the program helps make sure suspects stay behind bars until their immigration status is confirmed.