Harris County Changes Booking Policy for Illegal Immigrants

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HOUSTON -- Illegal immigrants in Harris County can no longer avoid formal booking into jail for some smaller crimes, a change victims advocates say closes a loophole that allowed suspects to dodge deportation.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office implemented the change last month after an illegal immigrant from Mexico, who had been free on a "non-arrest" bond, was accused of drunkenly smashing into another car and killing three people.

"Non-arrest" bonds are sometimes given in cases where warrants are issued for relatively minor crimes. By paying them, suspects avoid being booked into jail -- and being asked about their citizenship.

Harris County Sergeant D.M. Mackey says the decision to change the policy was designed to better help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents identify illegal immigrants.

He says U.S. citizens will still be issued "non-arrest" bonds.

Victim advocates hailed the new policy.