Houston Police to Change Immigration Policy

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The Houston police will begin asking all arrested suspects whether they're citizens. Anyone without identification will be fingerprinted and their criminal histories checked in a national database.

The Houston Police Department announced the new policy Sunday.

Officers are still barred from asking people who aren't under arrest about their immigration status, a restriction that has prompted critics to denounce Houston as a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.

But city officials said the new policy will help identify and remove violent criminals from Houston's streets.

Under the new policy, police will hold suspects for immigration officials if a background search shows that the suspect is accused of returning to the country after being deported for a crime -- or defying an order to leave the country.

Those who cannot provide proper identification but have no criminal record will not be turned over to immigration officials.

Prior to the new policy, police generally did not hold anyone for immigration authorities, even if there were outstanding federal warrants.