FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2006
(512) 463-0120 office
AUSTIN -- State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa sent a letter to Governor Rick Perry asking that he develop a policy regarding the appropriate use of funds for Operation Linebacker.
Senator Hinojosa, who is chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, is concerned that a sheriff in El Paso County who is participating in the Operation Linebacker program is not following Texas law.
"I am concerned both by recent immigration raids conducted by Sheriff Leo Samaniego in El Paso County and by confirmed reports that the sheriff is setting up roadblocks and asking vehicle occupants for driver's licenses, car insurance information and social security cards," Senator Juan Hinojosa wrote in the letter. " These raids and roadblocks are questionable in legality, and may give rise to civil rights lawsuits against Texas…I am asking you to develop a policy regarding the use of funds received under your border initiative -- Operation Linebacker."
Governor Perry has provided nearly $10 million to Operation Linebacker since December 2005.
Operation Linebacker is an initiative developed by the 16-member Texas Border Sheriff’s Association. The grants provide manpower, specialized equipment and planning resources to border-area law enforcement.
Senator Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, became concerned about the intent of Operation Linebacker after community leaders contacted him about citizens being allegedly targeted in raids and roadblocks because of their race.
"As immigration issues hit border states, we must fight to ensure that the civil rights of Border citizens are guaranteed," Senator Shapleigh said. "To arrest or detain a citizen based merely on the color of the skin is a violation of our constitution."
In the letter, Senator Hinojosa also raised the concern that a "raid and roadblock" approach will undercut the ability of local law enforcement to ensure the public's safety because it discourages both legal and illegal immigrants from seeking help from the police.
Will Harrell, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, said his office is investigating the raids and roadblocks for possible litigation.
"Sheriff Samaniego swore to uphold the Constitution and laws of Texas. Instead, he's gotten swept up in the anti-immigrant hysteria. This "raid and roadblock" practice is illegal, wasteful of law enforcement resources and is an exercise in utter misguided judgment," said Will Harrell. "Samaniego should be ashamed and El Paso voters should take action. For a high level law enforcement official to place personal bias and political aspirations above the rule of law this way is a disheartening disgrace and makes a mockery of the law enforcement community as a whole."
Counties participating in Operation Linebacker are Brewster, Cameron, Culberson, Dimmit, El Paso, Hidalgo, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Maverick, Presidio, Starr, Terrell, Val Verde, Webb, and Zapata.
The Linebacker funds are distributed through the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which is administered by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD).
MEDIA: For a copy of Senator Hinojosa's letter to Governor Perry please contact Melissa del Bosque by email at Melissa.email@example.com.