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February 26, 2012

Saving ‘287(g)’

Cut in funding proposed for criminal alien ID program

Last week, a Guatemalan man who was brought to the Whitfield County jail for driving on a suspended license was interviewed by sheriff’s office employees who are trained as immigration officers. After it was discovered the man had previous arrests and convictions for DUI and attempting to elude a police officer, he was processed for deportation and transferred into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Atlanta.

A year ago this month, two residents of Mexico who were determined to be “unlawfully present” in the U.S. by county immigration officers were arrested. One man was charged with possession of cocaine and drug-related objects, and had prior arrests and convictions for carrying a concealed weapon and criminal trespass. Another man who was charged with possession of schedule III narcotics and drugs not in the original container had previous arrests and convictions for DUI and probation violation.

Those men were also scheduled for deportation by ICE. Dozens of other similar cases in the last few years lead law enforcement officials to say the 287(g) program — which helps ICE-trained county officers identify inmates who are in the country illegally and have criminal backgrounds — is a success.

But in a USA Today story detailing the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed budget for the coming year, the agency is saying it will not sign new contracts for 287(g) and will eliminate the least productive of the programs, saving the agency $17 million.

Isakson promotes

In Dalton on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he did not agree with the Obama administration’s plan to curtail 287(g), but said Whitfield County will get to keep its program.

Maj. John Gibson with the sheriff’s office said officials there are aware cuts are planned.

“They’ll see we’ve been successful,” he said of any budget cut wielders with the Department of Homeland Security. “We’ve been tremendously successful — we’ve been able to catch some serious felony criminals through this program and (it’s) helping to process illegal aliens.”

Gibson said he’s looked at a proposed “Secure Communities” federal government program that “checks the fingerprints of all people booked into local jails against federal immigration databases,” according to USA Today.

“I got some information a couple of weeks ago about (it),” he said. “I’ve looked at Secure Communities, but I say if it’s not broke don’t try to fix it ... it would be a great shame if 287(g) is discontinued here locally. All our statistical data proves that it’s successful.”

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