1 min 4 sec ago

Brian Hughes

Nearly half of the suspected illegal immigrants picked up for deportation under Frederick County’s enforcement program last year were arrested for a traffic violation or driving without a license, according to county records.

Frederick is the lone county in Maryland that employs 287(g), a program that allows local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The county has come under fire from critics for deportations of illegal immigrants who have not committed violent crimes.

Last year, 187 suspected illegal immigrants in the county were taken into custody, and of those, 65 were held for driving without a license and 23 for traffic violations. Others were charged with more serious offenses. There were 22 arrests for assault, 15 occurrences of driving while intoxicated and four sexual offenses.

Yet, sheriff’s office deputies say they are just following laws on the books.

“Individuals are taken into custody by law enforcement officers based on arrestable offenses as defined by Maryland law,” said Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tim Clarke. “No, we do not focus on minor offenses. We simply process each individual that comes into our facility as an arrestee. We have no influence on who an individual officer arrests and why that individual is arrested.”

Federal officials have pushed measures recently to slow the deportation of nonviolent illegal immigrants, but Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins contends that his deputies have not altered their practices.

Last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials began a two-month program in the county’s jail preventing police from keeping a suspected illegal immigrant for minor offenses unless that person had a previous conviction or an outstanding warrant. But after that trial period, the county returned to more stringent enforcement.

The overall number of deportations was down in 2011 compared with the year before, when 60 percent of immigration detainments were for traffic offenses.

Immigration advocates say the tough enforcement program destroys families, hurts the economy and wastes precious government resources. Yet, supporters counter that by being in the country illegally, those who are deported have broken federal laws.

By the Numbers
Frederick County charges against suspected illegal immigrants in 2011
Driving without a license: 65
Other: 34
Traffic: 23
Assault: 22
Driving while intoxicated: 15
Possession of a controlled substance: 9
Trespassing: 5
Sex offenses: 4
Theft: 4
Fraud: 4
Domestic violence: 2
Total: 187
Source: Frederick County Sheriff’s Office

Countries of processed illegal immigrants
El Salvador: 57
Mexico: 39
Guatemala: 33
Honduras: 20
Costa Rica: 4
Ecuador: 3
Brazil: 2
Dominican Republic: 2
Argentina: 2
19 other countries with 1 each
Total: 181
Source: Frederick County Sheriff’s Office

Half of illegal-immigrant arrests in Frederick for traffic offenses | Washington Examiner