Travis County sheriff's immigration checks protested

More than 50 people protested outside the Travis County sheriff's office on Friday, calling on Sheriff Greg Hamilton to stop participating in a program that detains and deports illegal immigrants.

The protesters were aligned with a group of Austin-bound undocumented immigrants who are riding across parts of the nation in a bus to protest deportations.

"Sheriff Hamilton claims he has no choice, but the immigration holds are voluntary," said Sarahi Uribe with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Uribe criticized a program called Secure Communities, which helps the federal government identify potential deportation targets by comparing fingerprints of people who have been booked on various charges against immigration databases. Uribe said participation in the program by local law enforcement officials is voluntary, citing information released after civil rights groups sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hamilton has said previously that participation is mandatory. Since Secure Communities was begun in Travis County in June 2009, more than 500 people have been deported. The county ranked third in May with a 41 percent deportation rate among 56 U.S. counties with at least 500 deportations through Secure Communities, according to an American-Statesman analysis.

Travis County sheriff's spokesman Roger Wade had no comment about the protest.

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