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US border agents to pursue migrants in 'sanctuary' cities

WASHINGTON — Federal agents who patrol the U.S. border will deploy to “sanctuary” cities across the country where local jurisdictions are hindering stepped up immigration enforcement, officials said Friday.

The deployment of Customs and Border Patrol agents, some with tactical training, to the interior of the country is unusual and represents another escalation in the confrontation between the Trump administration and the local jurisdictions that have set up roadblocks to immigration enforcement.

Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence said additional forces are needed because people without legal authorization to be in the country are being released from local jails in sanctuary cities and counties before his agents can take them into custody.

ICE then has to make “at large arrests” of these immigrants who have been released, Albence said in a statement announcing the move.

“This effort requires a significant amount of additional time and resources,” he said. “When sanctuary cities release these criminals back to the street, it increases the occurrence of preventable crimes, and more importantly, preventable victims.”

The acting director did not disclose when or where the agents would be deployed but an official, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose details not provided in the statement, said they would include major sanctuary cities such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit.

Albence also did not provide details on the specific types of agents being deployed, but the official said they would come from varied U.S. locations and would include officers with tactical training that is typically intended to prepare them for potential confrontations with traffickers and other criminals.

Immigrant advocates dismissed the deployment as a political move by President Donald Trump to excite anti-immigration elements among his supporters and intimidate communities that have adopted sanctuary policies to ensure people cooperate with local law enforcement regardless of whether they are in the country illegally or not.

“Deploying elite SWAT-like units to American cities is dangerous,” said Naureen Shah of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is about further militarizing streets.”

Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, said she was concerned about use of the military-like Border Patrol Tactical Unit in a civilian setting.

“We could see CBP officers who aren’t trained for interior immigration enforcement using excessive force, emboldening ICE agents to do the same and escalating situations,” she said.

The deployment comes as the president and others in his administration look to increase pressure on a sanctuary city movement that has expanded since he took office.

More than 700 counties have now declined to continue holding people sought by ICE and more than 160 have prohibited officers from even asking people about their immigration status, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Supporters of sanctuary policies say people will be less likely to report crime or to be a witness if they believe they could be deported for doing so. “Our relationships with our police and sheriff’s departments have become stronger because of these policies,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Albence and others in the administration say sanctuary policies interfere with legitimate law enforcement efforts.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said moving agents from the border will weaken security there.

“It is truly alarming that President Trump is moving resources away from the border just to ratchet up his cruel immigration agenda, throw meat to his base, and inflict revenge on states that don’t do what he says,” said Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat.

The Justice Department this week filed one lawsuit against New Jersey for prohibiting state and local law enforcement from sharing information about inmates in the U.S. illegally and another Washington state’s King County over a policy that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from using the King County International Airport-Boeing Field for deportation flights.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security said it would bar New York residents from trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry because of state law that prohibits immigration agents from accessing motor vehicle records.

Trump has been trying since he took office to punish sanctuary cities. In 2017, Jeff Sessions, then attorney general, said such cities would not receive grant money unless they gave federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released from prison. A federal judge blocked the punishment from being enforced, and the cities got the money.

Spring temperatures expected this weekend, but winter not over yet

The weekend has gorgeous weather on tap, a most promising interlude between the next round of clouds, cold and rain.

Meteorologists are calling for sunny skies all weekend, with highs in the 60s on Saturday and temperatures reaching the 70s Sunday afternoon.

Despite what the groundhog may have said, there is still plenty of winter left for North Texas. The next round of rain is expected mid-week.

And, it really has been a cool, wet winter so far.

From Jan. 1 to mid-February, a total of 7.65 inches of rain fell, according to the official record at DFW International Airport.

That’s 4.36 inches above normal, according to Steve Fano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Forecasters expect the next rainy system on Wednesday or Thursday. While the cold front could dip far enough south to deliver a wintry mix, it’s not in the forecast, at least not yet, Fano said.

That’s still too many days away for the weather service to make the call.

“Our confidence is not high enough to include it in the forecast,” Fano said.

However, they are watching the system closely. In a few days, they should have a higher confidence in what the cold front will bring.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not getting anything,” he added. “We’re keeping it [the forecast] as a cold rain.”

Recent rains made up for a drier December, but likely means the ground is too wet for gardeners and landscapers to get much work done this weekend, said Janet Laminack, the horticulture agent with the Denton County office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Last weekend, she trimmed back her perennial plants to get ready for spring, something gardeners can take care of no matter how wet the conditions.

“It’s not fun, but it has to be done,” Laminack said.

Gardeners could also take advantage of warm temperatures and sunny skies to make a new raised bed or prepare containers for spring plantings — although those are still a month away.

And “don’t be fertilizing yet,” she added.

North Texans should wait until after the first mow — of grass, not tall weeds — to apply any fertilizer, she said.

In other words, there’s little that needs to be done in the lawn and garden this weekend, which leaves plenty of time for fun in the sun.

UNT athletic department rebuts story about sexual misconduct

On Feb. 6, freelance reporter Kenny Jacoby released a story on USA Today highlighting seven university athletic departments that recruited athletes with a history of sexual offenses, including the University of North Texas.

Prior to and after Jacoby’s article was published, the UNT athletic department claims it was unaware of the recruits’ histories prior to their recruitment.

Two former UNT football players were listed: linebacker Tim Faison and defensive back Darius Turner. Faison, who began his college football career at Purdue before a sexual misconduct occurrence pushed him to transfer, has played the past two seasons at UNT but is currently in the transfer portal. Turner spent one semester at UNT after starting at Arizona Western and made three appearances during the 2016 season.

Tim Faison

Darius Turner

Upon the article’s release, UNT athletic director Wren Baker expressed distaste with Jacoby’s content and lack of fairness.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Baker said. “[The article] says we haven’t made any changes to our recruiting policy and we have — we made those [changes] known to the writer. We’ve outlined a lot of the changes that we’ve made, and we continue to look at policies at every institution and conference around the country.”

Jacoby claimed that UNT has taken no public steps forward to prevent the recruiting of sexual offenders since he reached out. After the recruitment of these two transfers, UNT’s athletic department hardened its protocol for vetting recruits, including hiring a third-party company to run criminal background checks, said Jared Mosley, chief operating officer for the athletic department. The athletic department clarified that the changes were not made in correlation with the recruitment of the two athletes.

“I feel very good about the changes in our policy and what they bring to the table,” Baker said. “Specifically the criminal background checks and social media reviews of every student-athlete that comes into our program. I’m not aware of anybody else in our conference doing it. So I think that was a huge step for us — it was not cheap to institute that, but we do see it as a duty of ours to try to vet anybody that we bring into our campus community.”

The athletic department repeatedly denied knowledge of either athlete’s previous history, first in a statement from Eric Capper, senior associate athletic director, and second in an official news release.

“The safety and well-being of our campus community are among our highest priorities,” UNT Athletics said in a press release. “Any time we receive information of alleged misconduct, it is immediately reviewed in coordination with our campus resources. Additionally, we have made several enhancements to our recruiting process in the past two years and are one of only a few schools that mandate criminal background checks on all transfers and signees. We have engaged in a thorough review of our recruiting processes and procedures and remain committed to adhering to the highest standard of compliance moving forward.”

The athletic department created an additional tool: a form called the Prospective Student-Athlete Snapshot instituted to provide further information on recruits. The form was installed in 2017 and is used by coaches to shed more light on a student-athlete’s positive and negative concerns. This helps catch more potential red flags that might appear.

Red flags can range from academic grades and test scores to behavioral and criminal matters. After the proper documentation of the student-athlete is fulfilled and it comes to the point of offering a national letter of intent, they are given a mandatory criminal background check in concert with a social media review that goes through a third party.

The athletic department implemented these additions to their recruitment process in the second half of 2019.

For transfer athletes, the athletic department sends a tracer form — an NCAA-established form that covers three primary areas regarding the current standing of an athlete — to the institution the athlete is transferring from: Is the athlete in good academic standing? Would the athlete be eligible if they stayed at their current institution? Was the athlete dismissed for any disciplinary reason?

Jacoby brings up the Tracy Rule, which was founded by Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and awareness advocate. This rule mandates a zero-tolerance policy for student-athletes who have been reprimanded for sexual misconduct. It is not NCAA-mandated, however, therefore institutions are not required to add it to their vetting process.

So far, there are two institutions that have adopted the Tracy Rule. The first is the University of Texas-San Antonio, which integrated the rule last September, and Slippery Rock University, which made the addition last month.

Jacoby reached out to UNT Student Government Association President Yolian Ogbu for comment concerning reports that two UNT football players were found responsible of sexual misconduct. Her comments were made before meeting with the athletic department but after meeting with the UNT Title IX coordinator.

“If we have athletes who play for us and represent us who are actual assaulters, that’s just ridiculous to us,” Ogbu said in the article.

Ogbu was also supportive of the Tracy Rule after SGA communications director Noah Hutchinson spoke with Tracy and read over the rule. Hutchinson’s main supporting argument of the Tracy Rule was that it looked past just the previous institution to get a better idea of a student-athlete’s overall history.

“I’m in support of the fact that [it includes] all types of students,” Ogbu said. “The issue that we’re running into is that maybe we could be checking all the incoming freshmen. But I guess transfer students seem to be a place where there’s a really big question mark.

The six other schools mentioned in the story are the University of South Florida, Slippery Rock University, Texas Tech, San Diego State, Southern University and Capital University.

Constable Precinct 4 candidates talk ethical roadblocks of law enforcement

Incumbent Tim Burch will soon defend his elected position of constable over Denton County’s Precinct 4 against Danny Fletcher, a sergeant with the Denton Police Department.

With no Democrats in the race, the race will be decided following the primary vote on March 3. That means only those voting in the Republican primary will have a say in the head of the Precinct 4 constable’s office.

Burch has come under fire in years past for his relationship with Barry Minoff, his former chief of staff. Minoff has been under investigation for allegedly using more than $300,000 from a North Texas nonprofit while gambling in Las Vegas. Minoff’s trial is scheduled for Feb. 28. Despite criticism from county commissioners, Burch kept Minoff on paid administrative leave until commissioners defunded Minoff’s position.

Burch has long maintained he had no role in the misuse of funds. He also has defended his decision to not fire Minoff as the right thing to do considering the circumstances.

When contacted by phone this past week, Burch said he serves as constable “through the wondrous grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and his forgiveness.”

Responding to his relationship with Minoff, he said he immediately placed his former employee on leave when allegations came to light.

“The internal affairs investigation remained open and was never actually closed because nobody would provide anything whatsoever to substantiate his guilt or innocence,” Burch said. “So if I would have terminated him at the request of Denton County, I would have set myself and the county up for extreme litigation, and I was not about to do that.”

Fletcher responded broadly when asked about the incidents involving Burch and Minoff, saying it’s important for elected officials — especially law enforcement — to behave in a way that will not draw into question their decision-making or integrity.

He also said public trust is the most fragile thing law enforcement officials have, “and once it’s broken, it’s very difficult to ever repair.”

The nonprofit Minoff allegedly misused funds from, 5-04U, was led in part by both he and Burch. The organization worked to set working law enforcement officers up with extra work outside their normal duties. Former County Judge Mary Horn admonished Burch in 2013 for repeatedly using his county vehicle to perform off-duty work.

Despite the age difference, both men have roughly the same amount of time in law enforcement. Before he began his training as a police officer, Burch said he worked as an aircraft mechanic until 1995.

Compared with other races, these constable candidates have relatively small pots of money to play with. Looking at the most recent financial documents submitted by the candidates, Burch reported having spent $200 on his campaign, from New Year’s Day until Jan. 23. Over that same period, Burch reported having $15,330 in outstanding loans, at least $3,000 of which came from Burch himself over the past seven months.

For his part, Fletcher reported spending $6,225 from New Year’s Day to Feb. 3, more than 30 times as much as his opponent during a slightly larger window. Over the past several months, Fletcher has received donations from state Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton; current constable over Precinct 5 Doug Boydston; and Constable Precinct 3 candidate Jeri Rodriguez.

Each candidate was questioned about things that came out of background checks done by the Denton Record-Chronicle. Their answers, presented in alphabetical order, have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tim Burch financial
Tim Burch voting history
Danny Fletcher financial
Danny Fletcher voting history

Tim Burch

Tim Burch

Age: 61

Born in: Lynchburg, Virginia

Education: Peace officer license, 1998; basic peace officer certificate, 1999; intermediate peace officer certificate, 2000, advanced peace officer certificate, 2005; master peace officer certificate, 2011

Experience: North Richland Hills Police Department, 1998-2002, officer; Denton County Constable Precinct 4, 2003-2012, officer; Denton County Constable Precinct 4, 2013-present, constable

Website: http://www.timburch.com/

If elected, what steps would you take to increase and/or maintain the integrity of the office?

When I am elected March 3, the integrity of the office will be continued to be maintained as it has in the past and will continue in the future.

Please describe a situation in which you took a controversial position that angered or offended people, and explain how you handled it.

To be honest, it’s hard to recollect anything that I’ve ever stated to anyone as I let and maintained my office with a faith-based motto, but the only thing I can recollect would have been at the Commissioners Court when I attempted to correlate the constable’s office and the deputies that perform their duties was no different than people who lay their lives on the line every day in law enforcement. I did not receive any fallout from taking that position, and the only thing that I have ever had anybody question was my position in leaving my former chief of staff on administrative leave while he was under a current internal affairs investigation.

Please describe one instance in which you faced an ethical dilemma and how you resolved it.

The only thing that I can recollect as far as a dilemma that I have faced at my office or the office of Precinct 4 constable would have been to terminate my former chief of staff at the request of former County Judge Mary Horn. And my response to that dilemma was to offer putting former chief of staff Barry Minoff on unpaid administrative leave, and former County Judge Mary Horn would not accept those terms.

Danny Fletcher

Danny Fletcher

Age: 44

Born in: Duncan, Oklahoma

Education: East Central University, criminal justice, 1998; peace officer license, 1999; basic peace officer certificate, 2001; intermediate peace officer certificate, 2004; advanced peace officer certificate, 2004; basic instructor proficiency, 2007; master peace officer certificate, 2008

Experience: Denton Police Department, 1999-present

Website: http://fletcher4constable4.com/

If elected, what steps would you take to increase and/or maintain the integrity of the office?

I think that maintaining an open, transparent dialogue with the voters is important, having a track record of integrity in spite of having to make difficult decisions is important, and I think I spent 21 years building that reputation in law enforcement and in the Denton community, and I intend to continue that behavior.

Please describe a situation in which you took a controversial position that angered or offended people, and explain how you handled it.

I don’t know that I can think of one specific, but as the sergeant of the major crimes and special operations unit at the Denton Police Department, I was often faced with situations where people were upset with the outcome of the investigation. And what I have always found is that being completely open and honest about the facts can often subside the emotional part of the discussion.

Please describe one instance in which you faced an ethical dilemma and how you resolved it.

A few years ago, we had some officers that were involved with an organization outside of work that I felt like did not represent the values of our organization. Members of the public brought it to my attention and were offended by the officers’ involvement. Initially — and these two officers were my friends, they were my close friends — I approached them initially and discouraged their involvement in the group and received negative feedback from them. So once I determined they weren’t going to voluntarily remove themselves from that situation, I reported it through the internal affairs office, which initiated an investigation. I suffered some criticism and ridicule from some of the officers, particularly those two, but I stand by that decision. It was the right thing to do both ethically and morally.

More on Tim Burch and Barry Minoff

Lewisville hopefuls look to uphold integrity in Constable Precinct 3 office

With Denton County Precinct 3 Constable Jerry Raburn retiring, two Republican law enforcement officials from Lewisville are vying for the Precinct 3 constable office.

Constables are peace officers with certain powers of arrest. Although constables in Denton County have patrol functions and conduct criminal investigations, their primary role in the county is to serve as officer of the Justice of the Peace Courts for their jurisdiction.

There are six constables in Denton County, and each has their own jurisdiction. Precinct 3 covers Lewisville, Highland Village and Copper Canyon.

Jeri Rodriguez, 58, is the chief deputy constable for Precinct 3 and has experience working as a deputy for Precinct 6 and a reserve officer for Precinct 3. Rodriguez has been endorsed by Raburn.

Dan Rochelle, 50, is a Lewisville police captain who has served with the Lewisville Police Department for 28 years in various roles. Both are running for the Republican nomination.

The winner of the Republican nomination in March will get the post since no Democrat has filed to run in this precinct.

The most recent campaign finance report Rodriguez submitted shows $1,200 in political contributions, with $3,273 maintained. Rochelle’s most recent report shows $150 in contributions and $2,314 maintained. Older campaign finance reports can be found via the campaign finance portal on votedenton.com.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reviewed several public records in building candidate profiles for Denton County candidates, including campaign finance reports, voter history and employment history.

Candidates took the time to answer four questions about the constable’s position ahead of primary elections. Here are their responses in alphabetical order. Their responses have been edited for brevity.

Dan Rochelle CFO
Jeri Rodriguez CFO
Constable 3 candidate voter history

Daniel Shane Rochelle

Dan Rochelle

Age: 50

Born in: Arkansas

Experience: Lewisville patrol sergeant/police supervisor, 1997-1998, 2001-2004; Lewisville patrol lieutenant/shift watch commander, 2004-2010; Lewisville detention services lieutenant, 2010-2014, Lewisville police captain, 2014-present

Online: rochelleforconstable.com

Do you plan on receiving training through the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association Inc. and attending conferences?

Most definitely. I’m familiar with the association and know they provide training.

How are you planning on allocating funds for the constable’s office? Do you foresee any changes?

I’m not in the constable’s office. I have looked at their budgets. It’s mostly personnel costs. Most of the funds are going to pay the people. One of my first goals is to get to learn the county budget processing system, which I’m sure is very similar to what I’m used to at the city [of Lewisville]. Anywhere you go is going to have a different setup. You need to learn that system and be prepared for next year’s budget.

How would you establish and build integrity in the constable’s office?

I would keep the integrity going. I believe Precinct 3 staff has good integrity now, and I would maintain that.

This is an elected position where candidates run under a political party. How much of your political stances go into your decision-making?

There are very few decisions as a constable that you can make in the direction of a political party because, as a constable, you’re mostly serving orders for the court. There’s not any leeway on how you’re going to do that. You have to make those arrests. Much like a police chief, there’s not a whole lot of political party stances you can take; you gotta do the job.

Jeri Ann Rodriguez

Jeri Rodriguez

Age: 58

Born in: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Experience: Deputy with Precinct 6 constable’s office, 1999-2002; reserve officer with Precinct 3 constable’s office, 2002-2007; warrant/civil deputy, 2007-2011; chief deputy constable, 2011-present

Online: jerirodriguezforconstable.com

Do you plan on receiving training through the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association Inc. and attending conferences?

I have to do that anyway. It’s mandated. If I’m elected as constable, there’s a new constable’s course that is required, so I will be attending that. We have to maintain our 20 hours of civil process every cycle, which I’ve been doing since becoming a constable deputy.

How are you planning on allocating funds for the constable’s office? Do you foresee any changes?

I don’t foresee changes. We have a really good relationship with the Commissioners Court. Every year we put our budget request in; honestly, we’ve always operated within our departmental budget. I don’t see any major changes to that. We’ve always been able to operate within the budget.

How would you establish and build integrity in the constable’s office?

Honestly, we hired really good personnel. All of our deputies, with the exception of one, have civil process certifications, and that’s not easy to get. You have to work with civil process for a minimum of three years before you can sit with that exam at [the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement]. Being familiar with that and having experience is very important. You can open taxpayers up to liability and being sued, because that does affect taxpayers when a county gets sued. An officer we were given a few years ago gave us a completely new position, so he hasn’t been here long enough to be eligible for TCOLE (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement).

This is an elected position where candidates run under a political party. How much of your political stances go into your decision-making?

I do believe in the core values of the Republican Party. An example would be our Second Amendment right. Being an elected official, I’d make sure I support that and would stand with the sheriff to not allow the government to take weapons away from law-abiding citizens. It’s my Republican belief to make sure I use good judgment and stand by those core values.