Collier sheriff gets OK to enforce immigration rules for three more years

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In this 2012 file photo, about 150 people gathered outside the Collier County Sheriff's Office Substation in Immokalee to protest the 287(g) policy which allows for the collaboration between the Collier Sheriff's Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Sunday, October, 21, 2012 in Immokalee, Fla. The protestors delivered just over 1,700 signatures from Collier County residents who are against 287(g) to the Sheriff's Office.

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk on NewsMakers 11-18-12.

Text of Rambosk prior statement

Read the text of Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk's prior statement about the 287(g) program

NAPLES — The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has renewed an agreement with the federal government to remain an active immigration enforcer.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has extended for three years the 287(g) program, which had been set to end June 30, at participating agencies around the country.
Locally, it allows 10 trained deputies to interrogate inmates on their legal status, and to access immigration databases — tasks normally done by federal agents.
The new contract is the third extension since October for the program, which had an uncertain future following allegations of discrimination in other states.
The new agreements “reflect ICE’s policies and priorities,” agency spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell said.
Six years ago, 287(g) began in Collier County under then- Sheriff Don Hunter, who along with current Sheriff Kevin Rambosk ardently support it. Lee County doesn’t participate.
Critics argue 287(g) leads to deportation of undocumented immigrants for minor infractions, separating families long-established in the U.S. They contend the program also fosters distrust toward law enforcement in immigrant communities.
But local law enforcement has vigorously clung to the program. Federal data shows that by fall 2012, Collier County had placed about 4,300 detainers, with the majority resulting in deportation.
In an October 2012 exchange of Sheriff’s Office emails obtained by the Daily News, officers noted the case of Sinar Escalante. Picked up on a drug charge around that time, he gave a fake name, but his fingerprints showed he was wanted for leaving the scene of a crash in 2005 that killed a man in Immokalee. An ICE detainer was immediately placed when he was arrested.
“Another example of the type of subject that we are dealing with — and without 287(g) we would be helpless,” Chief Jim Bloom wrote to other deputies..
In late December, ICE dismantled the active 287(g) “task force model” that allowed deputies to investigate and detain individuals like Escalante for an immigration violation, which is a civil not criminal offense.
According to sheriff’s Lt. Keith Harmon, who oversees the jail 287(g) program, those eight team members “were looking for people for removal based on criminal history.”
The “jail model” remains in place. Deputized officers investigate inmates of questionable status once they are at the jail, and report them to ICE, which then determines if the individual will face an immigration judge.
The current 287(g) model is passive, relying on an arrest first, at which point the arrested person’s background is reviewed.
Without 287(g), local law enforcement still runs suspects’ fingerprints against immigration databases through the Secure Communities program, which accesses federal immigration information to determine priority removals — those individuals who threaten “public safety, national security, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system,” according to an ICE memo sent to police agencies late last year.
Felonies, multiple misdemeanors, and repeat immigration law violations are grounds for a detainer. Minor traffic offenses aren’t.
“We go by (ICE) enforcement priorities...,” Harmon said. “If they (the arrestees) don’t meet priorities, depending on their background, we don’t place the detainer.”
The problem is the lag in a response from ICE’s Secure Communities, which can take 4 to 8 hours to respond whether the Sheriff’s Office should hold someone for immigration reasons, Harmon said.
287(g) fills that gap by allowing local staff to investigate whether an arrested person needs to be held; otherwise, someone could be released in the interim, prior to a result from Secure Communittees, he argued.
The 287(g) renewal comes during a feverish immigration debate.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved a bill that would provide a 13-year citizenship path for many undocumented immigrants. It now heads to the House of Representatives. Earlier this month a House committee approved a game-changer for immigration enforcement: the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act that would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to “investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, or detain aliens,” according to the bill’s text.
Such a level of enforcement is currently only provided by federal agents and local officers deputized under programs like 287(g).
The Florida Immigrant Coalition spoke out against the renewal Friday, months after it and other immigrant rights activists campaigned against the program, including delivering a petition to Rambosk to sever 287(g).
The group said it was disappointed with the Sheriff’s Office and Obama Administration for allowing the renewal.
“It has been widely reported by studies and litigation that the 287(g) agreement, which gives state and local law enforcement responsibilities only adequate for immigration agents, really interferes with their ability to promote safety and justice in communities. ICE already has terminated two 287(g) agreements, one in Maricopa County, Ariz., and another in Alamance County, N.C, because the Department of Justice found local police engaging in discriminatory police practices,” the Immigrant Coalition said in a statement.
The 287(g) program is now set to expire in Collier on June 30, 2016.