Sheriff Steve Cronic said nine of his deputies began training today for the 287(g) program, a local-federal partnership that gives sheriff’s officials new authority in enforcing immigration law.
Cronic had been waiting for approval for the program for nearly a year. Hall County and Whitfield County will be the second and third jurisdictions in Georgia to implement the program, which Cobb County began last year. The sheriff said anyone who commits a crime that requires them to be booked into the jail will be subject to deportation if they are in the country illegally.
He said the program was not aimed at rounding up illegal immigrants.
"This program is not anti-immigrant," Cronic said. "Its focus is simply those individuals who have entered our country illegally and continue to break the law while here."
The nine deputies undergoing the five weeks of training include seven detention officers from the Hall County jail and two members of the Hall County Gang Task Force.
Cronic said the task force members will have the authority to detain suspected gang members on immigration violations regardless of whether they face criminal charges.
While the sheriff’s office can begin deportation proceedings, the ultimate decision on whether to deport lies with the federal government, Cronic said. Under the proposed terms of an agreement that has not yet been finalized, federal officials would have 72 hours to pick up violators or would pay the county to continue to house them.
Cronic said there is room in the new 1,026-bed county jail to hold immigration detainees.
The numbers could be high. Cronic estimated of the 200 or so foreign nationals booked into the jail each month, at least half are in the country illegally.