Hurtt Not So Good

By Jessica M. Vaughan on March 5, 2010

Sources inside and outside ICE are reporting that the agency leadership intends to install an embattled ex-police chief known for his obstruction of immigration law enforcement as its liaison to the local law enforcement community. Former Houston police chief Harold Hurtt is reportedly the top candidate to lead the agency’s Office of State and Local Coordination. That office’s main responsibility is the 287(g) program, of which Hurtt has been outspokenly critical.

As chief, Hurtt stubbornly resisted pressure to allow his officers to work more cooperatively with ICE, citing his belief that such cooperation would scare immigrants and distract from the department’s public safety mission. He was eventually forced to yield on his sanctuary policy after several police officers were killed by illegal aliens. One victim was officer Rodney Johnson, who in 2006 was shot four times in the back of the head by an illegal alien with a long record of prior arrests in Houston, including indecency with a child, DWI, and hit and run. Hurtt is named in a lawsuit filed by Johnson’s widow, who is also a Houston police officer.

Even after losing several officers at the hands of illegal aliens, Hurtt’s policy stipulated that only those aliens with outstanding ICE warrants would be turned over to ICE, meaning that if his officers arrested an illegal alien ICE had not yet discovered, Houston PD would shield that individual from immigration law enforcement. Houston police officers were directed to treat consular ID cards as a legitimate form of identification, in direct conflict with recommendations of federal law enforcement agencies. Such policies surely interfere with crime-fighting -- in our study of immigrant gangs, for example, we found that ICE has been able to identify and remove relatively few illegal alien gang members in the Houston area, although it is a hotbed for violent cross-border gang activity, including assassinations; drug, human and weapons trafficking; extortion and kidnappings.

This appointment would raise serious doubts about ICE’s sincerity in its outreach efforts to state and local law enforcement agencies, whose help it badly needs in addressing the public safety problems associated with immigration. It would be an insult to the 73 police, sheriff and state law enforcement agencies that have stepped up to assist ICE through the 287(g) program (The career ICE agent, William Riley, who previously held this job was highly regarded by the local LEA partners, his fellow agents, and on the Hill, but was sent packing to make way for the new candidate). It also will encourage even more state and local governments to follow the lead of Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma and others to tap into their own authority and resources to punish and deter illegal immigration, since they are getting so little help from the feds these days.