Wednesday, March 4, 2009

House to look at locals enforcing immigration law

ASSOCIATED PRESS • March 4, 2009 The Homeland Security Department has failed to ensure that local and state law enforcement agencies pursue serious criminals and don't misuse their authority while enforcing immigration law, government investigators say. Dozens of state and local agencies have partnered with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration laws, the domain of the federal government. But ICE, a Homeland Security agency, has not clearly explained that serious criminal offenders, such as drug smugglers, are the target, the Government Accountability Office said in a report obtained by The Associated Press. The GAO also found that ICE is not properly supervising its local and state partners nor collecting data needed to assess the program, according to today's GAO report. As a result, some local and state law enforcement agencies have been focusing on people arrested for speeding, carrying an open alcohol container and urinating in public, the GAO said. The shortcomings could lead to officers misusing their authority, the GAO said. The 287g program gives local land state law enforcement agencies the training and resources to identify individuals charged with crimes and sent to local and state jails who may have entered the country illegally. Law enforcement agencies that participate in the 287g program also have the authority to transfer individuals suspected of entering the country illegally to ICE custody. In most cases, this referral leads to deportation or the individual agreeing to leave the United States voluntarily. In some areas, such as Los Angeles, the county's chief jailer has opted to screen individuals charged with driving under the influence and felony crimes. Davidson screens 4,000 In Davidson County, Sheriff Darron Hall's decision to screen any foreign-born person brought to the jail regardless of the crime with which the person is charged has led local immigrants, immigrant advocates, and attorneys to characterize the program as a dragnet-like racial profiling tool. Since the program was put in place in Davidson County in March 2007, more than 4,000 people have been screened by the county. Among the thousands deported from Davidson County during the program's first year was a man charged with playing his car stereo too loudly and another charged with fishing without a license. The majority of those deported were charged with driving without a license and other minor traffic offenses for which police officers have the option of writing a citation or taking the driver to jail. Hall has said that Davidson County's 287g program is not a dragnet or racial profiling tool because deputies at the jail screen inmates while police officers make independent decisions about whom to arrest and bring to the jail. Hall has also described his decision to screen all inmates rather than only those charged with serious crimes as the fairest method by which to operate the 287g program.

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