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Migrant raids boon for Texas counties

AUSTIN, Texas — Several Texas counties have found a way to profit from working with federal immigration officials in tracking and detaining immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

Eight counties have joined a federal program that allows sheriff’s deputies to become certified immigration officers. Four of those counties — along with six others not in the certification program — allow federal agents to stash detained aliens in their jails, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday.

At least 16 counties nationwide participate in both programs. Lubbock County recently started having deputies certified as immigration officers under a program named 287(g), for the law that created it. It also collects $65 daily per person it houses after detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

With federal pressure on illegal immigration growing, advocates worry that more counties will act to participate in both programs. The setup is a “perverse financial incentive,” said Mary Small, policy director of the Washington-based Detention Watch Network.

Walker County, where Huntsville is located, responded to a jail escape by issuing $20 million in bonds in 2012 to build a new jail. The county sheriff’s office vowed to find new revenue sources to help defray the cost of the new lockup and locked onto working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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