41 Sheriffs Cooperating With U.S. on Immigration

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In a whitewashed cinderblock room at the Frederick County, Md., Detention Center, each new inmate answers two questions: “What country were you born in?” and “Of what country are you a citizen?” A sheriff’s deputy investigates any inmate who says he was born in another country, using computer equipment and databases provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Those found to be in the U.S. illegally could face extra jail time and deportation, Stateline reports. The Sheriff’s Office in this western Maryland county is one of 41 law enforcement agencies, generally county jails run by sheriffs, who are helping federal immigration authorities deport unauthorized immigrants in what are known as 287(g) partnerships. The participants stand in stark contrast to “sanctuary cities:” Instead of declining to cooperate with federal immigration officials, these sheriffs have volunteered to investigate the immigration status of prisoners when they book them.

Despite concerns about the added personnel costs and the possibility of being sued for civil rights violations, a variety of local officials, from conservative sheriffs in Texas to a liberal county executive in New Jersey, have embraced the program. Many sheriffs who are participating cite a desire to investigate prisoners as soon as possible, to root out those with serious criminal histories before they are released on bail. Some of the sheriffs, especially along the Southwest border, say they want to help federal authorities protect national security. Many of them agree with President Trump that it’s time for a crackdown on illegal immigration. “I think the general populace is tired of illegal immigration — tired of the costs and tired of being victims of crimes,” said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. In New Jersey, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, a liberal Democrat, said he wants his New York City suburb, where 42 percent of residents are immigrants, to continue taking part in the program as long as it targets only violent criminals. Created in 1996, the 287(g) program peaked in 2011, with 65 local police agencies actively participating. That number dropped to 46 in 2013 amid growing concerns about its operations.

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