Monday, April 5, 2010

Deportation program panned by federal report

Report: ICE initiative is poorly managed, lacks guidelines By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • April 5, 2010 The program used to jail people believed to be in the country illegally is poorly managed, lacks enforcement guidelines and needs to reach out to immigrants who won't report crimes to police for fear of being deported, says a federal report released Friday. The Homeland Security report continued federal government criticism of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement's detention program, known as 287(g) and practiced in Nashville. "The program undermines public safety by creating additional fear in communities that already are distrustful of law enforcement," said Hedy Weinberg, director of Tennessee's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. In Nashville, 287(g) became a lightning rod of controversy after the arrest of a pregnant woman who gave birth while shackled to a bed. 7,044 processed for removal Davidson County has processed 7,044 people for removal since April 2007, when the county became part of the ICE program. The program also fails to consistently vet jurisdictions that apply to join it and hasn't taken action against law enforcement agencies that violated the terms of their agreements, says the report by Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General. Immigrant advocates say some who are in the U.S. illegally won't call police for fear they could be arrested and deported. The 287(g) program allows sheriff's deputies to check the immigration status of those in jail even for minor offenses. A 2008 Tennessean investigation showed that of the roughly 3,000 people deported during the program's first year, about 81 percent were charged with misdemeanors. About half were caught during traffic stops. But federal officials have described Nashville's 287(g) program as one of the best in the country, said Karla Weikal, spokeswoman for the Davidson County Sheriff's Office. Aware of the criticisms, the sheriff has made it a point to track data closely, she said. In 2007, 12 percent of people arrested here were foreign-born. Those arrests have dropped to about 7 percent since then, Weikal said. The jail screens every person arrested who says they are foreign-born. It does not screen those jailed on a state citation. "A big criticism is that it leads to racial profiling," she said. "The arrest of foreign-born dropped. "Sheriff (Daron) Hall has made it a priority here in Davidson County to do self-policing. No one has to tell him to talk to Hispanic churches and find immigration advocates." The U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the 287(g) program last year after the agency found differences in how it is implemented by local law enforcement agencies. Leaked memo The latest report comes on the heels of a leaked ICE memo reported by The Washington Post. The memo complained about dwindling noncriminal deportations and outlined new goals for ICE agents charged with apprehending undocumented immigrants to boost the number of deportations. But such a quota is unacceptable, proving the concerns advocates had all along, said Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "There is serious dysfunction in ICE," he said. "It's a clear mismatch between stated policy goals and implementation. "The president needs to rethink who is heading up the program." Nationally, some $68 million has been allocated for 287(g) for fiscal 2010. The Davidson County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol are the only two agencies in the state participating in the program.

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