I am writing in response to an article in The Times on Sunday, “Feds’ immigration program extended,” regarding the Obama administration extending the federal 287(g) immigration program. Since the article focused on the opinions and misrepresentations of a local attorney and illegal immigrant advocate, I believe it is important to set the record straight.
In the article, he characterizes the program as inefficient, controversial and accuses the sheriff’s office of misusing it to create a dragnet to capture low level and unsuspecting illegal immigrants for deportation.
The facts are that the program is a jail-based program, not a task force program. No one becomes subject to the program unless they are first arrested for an unrelated violation of the state’s criminal or traffic code . Once they are booked into jail, a background check includes checking outstanding warrants, probation holds, pickup orders and, where warranted, an immigration status check.
If that check determines the person arrested is in the country in violation of immigration laws, the offender is referred to U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. ICE makes all decisions regarding whether the offender will be scheduled for a due process hearing and immigration enforcement action.
The program at your Hall County Sheriff’s Office was one of the first 287(g) partnerships approved in Georgia and has been referred to repeatedly by regional ICE officials as a “model program.” There have never been problems or issues associated with the program in Hall County. This is evident by the fact 287(g) was extended by the Obama administration last October with me, and again in December with Sheriff Gerald Couch.
The program in Hall County is operated under the same guidelines and standards as other 287(g) programs across the state and nation. This compliance is overseen by on-site ICE employees and includes constant reports, reviews and jail inspections.
Additionally, we are fortunate to have had a law enforcement agency that meets the standards necessary to be nationally accredited. This accreditation requires that an agency have specific policies prohibiting bias-based profiling. These policies are modeled after the most restrictive national standards and provide training guidelines for officer compliance. In Hall County, we have always taken that one step further by the voluntary gathering and monitoring of enforcement data.
Again, I understand the attorney’s position about the program, but we are a nation of laws, and we have processes in place to change laws you disagree with. Simply trying to make a villain out of those who enforce them is wrong, in my opinion.
What he and others like him have suggested in the past is that the sheriff’s office eliminate the program or, if it is kept in place, to ignore the immigration status of certain level offenders when they’re booked in the jail. To do that would put the sheriff and his staff in the position of picking and choosing which illegal aliens ICE receives notice of and who the sheriff’s office would turn a blind eye to — sort of a local “don’t ask, don’t tell” amnesty program. That would, in my view, simply be wrong.
My wish would be that anyone desiring to come to this country would do so through legal means, but if someone has come here in violation of our laws, the best way to ensure you are not subject to the 287(g) program is to take personal responsibility for your own actions and obey the rest of our laws.
I know to some that might seem unreasonable, but to an old retired sheriff, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
former Hall County sheriff