November 27, 2008

Cherokee Sheriff to apply for 287 (g) authority – Illegal alien lobby in a panic

Posted by D.A. King at 12:14 pm - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

Cherokee Ledger News
26 November 2008

Sheriff applies for deportation program
By Carolyn Mathews

After modifications to the federal 287(g) program, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has made application for the program.

It is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act and gives state and local law enforcement the authority to perform functions of immigration law enforcement through an agreement.

Sheriff Roger Garrison previously had said he wasn’t interested in 287(g) because he didn’t want the Cherokee County jail to become an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holding facility.

Last year, the sheriff’s office implemented an in-house program to help keep track of those in the country illegally. Capt. Karen Johnson said anyone who wasn’t born in the United States, who is booked into the jail, is asked where they were born, and deputies determine that person’s immigration status.

“We’ve been watching and staying abreast of all the latest changes and modifications,” Garrison said.

He said he spoke to a sheriff in Gastonia, N.C., and found out that agency had a 72-hour clause, which would require ICE agents to take custody of the inmates.

“They had the 72-hour clause, and that sparked our interest,” Garrison said. “We feel that is something reasonable.”

In Mecklenburg County, N.C., which is in close proximity to Gastonia, there is an ICE holding facility. Garrison said inmates are taken to that holding facility and once a week, they are bused to Atlanta to go before a federal judge.

“I don’t know of a holding facility around here, but, fortunately, we are close enough to Atlanta that they can service us pretty easily,” Garrison said.

He said Cherokee kept being compared to Cobb County and their involvement with the 287(g) program.

Before there was an ability to ensure that illegal immigrants would be picked up in a timely manner by federal officials, Garrison said, Cherokee couldn’t accommodate undocumented immigrants for an extended period of time like Cobb does because of its lesser resources.

“Cobb has a 3,000-bed jail and two correctional facilities, which gives them the capacity to distribute inmates throughout their entire system,” he said.

Cherokee’s jail is equipped to house 512 inmates. It currently is over capacity at 560 inmates.

So far in 2008, Cherokee sheriff’s deputies have arrested 1,477 non-U.S. citizens. Forty-five had ICE holds — 38 were released to ICE; four were released to the state; and one was released “to self,” — and there currently are 13 inmates with ICE holds.

As part of the agency’s application, Garrison sent a letter to ICE asking that nine detention officers/deputy sheriff’s receive training through the 287(g) program.

The officers selected for the program will be trained to identify, process and detain immigration offenders through their daily work. Those officers must be a U.S. citizen, must pass a Homeland Security background check, have at least two years of experience, have no pending disciplinary actions and successfully complete the jail enforcement officer training.

The process is still in its infancy stages and takes about 12 to 18 months to complete, Johnson said.

Last week, the sheriff’s office received a response to their August letter requesting participation.

“We just received a letter back this week and now we get in touch with our contact in Atlanta and start a needs assessment evaluation,” Johnson said. “They want to see whether or not we have a need. That’s our next step.”