Federal immigration agents are visiting jails almost every weekday looking for immigrants who have been arrested by local police, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Last month, agents expanded the program with improved technology to record fingerprints in a database and alert authorities when a previously arrested immigrant is again booked into a jail. Once immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally or violating the terms of their entry have been arrested, agents can request a jail hold them without bail, even after their local case is finished. The government can begin deportation proceedings.
Holly Cooper, a University of California-Davis law professor specializing in immigration, dismisses the program as a public relations campaign. She points to studies showing immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native-born population. “It appeases the constituents,” Cooper said. “We want to make people feel like we’re doing something to make them safer.” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies calls the jail patrols a way to enforce immigration laws and remove some repeat offenders. “Ask any law enforcement agency whether they’d like to get rid of 10 percent of the criminals – or whatever [the percentage] is – in their area,” she said.