Sheriff Gather Immigration Experts To Craft New Plan

Jan 10, 2007 04:25 PM PST

Claudia Nunez was arrested because she is undocumented after she was cited for a traffic stop.

The Davidson County Sheriff's controversial plan dealing with undocumented immigrants received the green light from the federal government.

The real work and debate begins now with creating a policy everyone can live with.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall gathered immigrant advocates who are part of the Sheriff's Immigration Advisory Council in an attempt to find common ground on a controversial program.

"Improperly implemented, this could turn into a dragnet of looking for people whose only offense is driving without a certificate," Rick Casares, immigration advocate, said.

The Davidson County Sheriff's Department will soon have access to a federal database that will alert them if criminals are in this country illegally. It's called the 287-G program.

"I'm telling you I want to do 287G, and I want to do it right," Hall said.

The fear is thousands of immigrants will experience what happed to Claudia Nunez. After she was cited for a traffic stop, Nunez was held behind bars because police discovered she was in this country illegally.

Since the state stopped the driving certificate program, which allowed illegal immigrants to drive legally, there's the concern thousands of undocumented workers will be put into jail once they're stopped, just like Claudia Nunez.

If a driver gets pulled over and does not have a driver's license, that driver will be ordered to appear in court. If that driver does not appear and gets pulled over again, an arrest will follow.

Tthat's when the 287-G program kicks in.

"In the jail side, it's our responsibility before we release you out the door, that we've gone farther into the investigation of your status, and that will occur, as the program is designed to do," Hall said.

Essentially, an offender's name will be entered into the federal database only after being put behind bars, not for a routine traffic stop. That eases the fears of a lot of people working with Hall on the project.

"It looks like in this program, if somebody's a non-violent offender, their just cited, for no driver's license, they're not going to run into the same problem as someone who's arrested, and put into jail," Immigration Attorney Yvette Sebelist said.

The federal government will pay for the 287-G program once it's up and running, which could be as early as April.