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12-08-2012, 01:38 AM #1
5 Sheriffs sought 287G immigration law authority
Sheriff's sought immigration law authority
By Laura Krantz/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Dec 08, 2012 @ 12:02 AM
The Middlesex and Worcester county sheriffs have applied to the federal government for the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Friday.
Sheriffs in Middlesex and Worcester counties along with those in Plymouth, Bristol and Essex counties, are seeking what is known as a "287g" partnership with ICE, to give their employees training and access to federal databases of illegal immigrants.
However, several sheriffs on Friday said they no longer want that access because the commonwealth in May adopted Secure Communities, a federal program that accomplishes nearly the same thing.
The 287g program, part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996, trains and equips 57 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, including the Massachusetts Department of Correction, to enforce immigration laws.
Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald Friday said the counties applied for the 287g program because they thought Gov. Deval Patrick would block the federal Secure Communities Act, which the federal government ultimately rolled out in the Bay State in April.
"The reason we were pushing is because we thought the governor was going to block this until the very last moment," McDonald said.
Patrick along with immigration advocates and many local law enforcement officials have criticized programs that give local law enforcement a hand in federal immigration matters, saying it will make immigrants fearful of police.
Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy has spoken out against Secure Communities in the past.
"Iím not an immigration officer. Itís my job to serve everyone in this community," he said.
But McDonald disagreed, saying the program only investigates immigrants who already have been arrested, not victims or witnesses of crimes.
"Secure Communities is not about illegal immigrants, itís about illegal criminal immigrants," he said Friday.
Worcester County Sheriff Lou Evangelidis Friday said becoming part of the 287g program now would be a moot point.
"We donít need to pursue that right now because we got Secure Communities in Massachusetts," he said.
ICE, the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws.
The agency in October announced it is scaling back the 287g program, under which local law enforcement offices pay to train their staff about immigration law and then monitor people they arrest for potential illegal immigration.
Massachusetts in May adopted the controversial Secure Communities Act, giving ICE access to fingerprints of everyone arrested in the state to identify illegal immigrants for deportation.
ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein Friday confirmed that the five Massachusetts 287g applications by the county sheriffs are active.
He said the agency will meet on Dec. 17 in Washington, D.C., to review the Massachusetts applications as well as those from North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama and Virginia.
Feinstein underscored that the meeting is preliminary and no decisions will be made.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is skeptical of the 287g program and the large number of Massachusetts applications.
"This certainly benefits ICE because they have an extra pair of hands, or more than that, paid for by the county, doing the work for them. Weíre not so sure how it benefits the county," said ACLU staff attorney Laura Růtolo.
When illegal immigrants are slated by federal authorities for deportation, they are held at the Plymouth County jail, which pays the Plymouth sheriffís department about $100 per inmate per day to house them, McDonald said.
There are usually about 300 people there awaiting deportation, he said.
(Laura Krantz can be reached at 508-626-4429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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