September 10, 2008

Police lobby Congress for tougher immigration enforcement

By Jeff McShan / 11 News

HOUSTON -- It was an early Sunday morning in June when Houston Police Officer Gary Gryder was struck and killed by a driver. Hunt Troung drove through a construction barricade.

Gryder's fellow officer Joe Pyland was severely injured in the collision.
It was the second time in two years that an HPD officer died while in duty.

In 2006, Officer Rodney Johnson was gunned down after making a routine traffic stop and arrest.

In both cases, the suspects accused of killing the officers are illegal immigrants.

So, on Tuesday, Johnson's widow, Pyland and Houston's police union president Gary Blankenship flew to Washington. On Thursday – which incidentally will be Sept. 11 – they will testify before a U.S. House judiciary committee on the subject of illegal immigrants.

“And we need some federal funding. We are 1,500 police officers short in Houston,” said Blankenship. “We are certainly in a position where we need to prioritize, but we need to address this problem and we need help from the federal government.”

Critics have long called Houston a sanctuary city, one that does not aggressively enforce immigration laws.

However, since Johnson and Gryder were killed, the police department has taken a more aggressive approach towards illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes in Houston.

Last year HPD arrested about 77,000 people and ran their fingerprints through a national database.

Those searches turned up 111 illegal immigrants who were wanted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials. The illegals were processed and held until immigration officials came to pick them up.

So far this year, 122 illegal immigrants have been identified and picked up by ICE. It is unclear how many of those have actually been deported, though.

The Houston police representatives going to D.C. insist more money will help, but they also plan to tell the federal government that it is just as important to seal the borders first.

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Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?