Will county drop 287 (g) for Secure Communities program?

April 14, 2012 3:14 PM
Chris Lavender / Times-News

GRAHAM — The Department of Homeland Security’s budget for fiscal 2012-13 proposes to expand the Secure Communities program nationwide while phasing out 287 (g) task force contract agreements with communities that show signs of low performance.

Commissioner Tim Sutton said Friday he believes 287 (g) will continue to be used in Alamance County and that Secure Communities isn’t as effective as the 287 (g) program.

The 287 (g) program trains and authorizes local law enforcement and jailers as federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for the purpose of deporting people in the country illegally. The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office implemented the 287 (g) program in 2007 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. Alamance County is among seven jurisdictions statewide that have implemented the 287 (g) since 2006.

The Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, Durham Police Department, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, and Wake County Sheriff’s Office implemented the 287 (g) program in 2008. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office implemented the program in 2006 and The Gaston County Sheriff’s Office implemented the program in 2007.

Sutton said he believes that the 287 (g) program will continue to help counties arrest and process illegal immigrants. Secure Communities doesn’t offer the same law enforcement tools necessary as 287 (g) to arrest and process illegal immigrants, said Sutton.

Secure Communities uses existing federal information - sharing partnership between ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that helps identify criminal aliens without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. The federal government, not the state or local law enforcement agencies, determines what immigration enforcement action is appropriate.

Alamance County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Randy Jones said Friday that Secure Communities isn’t as effective as 287 (g). Jones said 287 (g) allows the county to detain illegal immigrants who are processed while Secure Communities doesn’t have the same detainer option. Alamance County doesn’t currently use Secure Communities.

“Secure Communities just lets the federal government know that the illegal immigrant exists,” Jones said.

Commissioner Eddie Boswell said Friday that he wants the county to continue to use the 287 (g) program instead of moving toward using Secure Communities.

Boswell said 287 (g) has proven to be an effective tool for Alamance County to fight crime. Boswell said he doesn’t believe that people are being profiled through 287 (g).

Sutton said since the county implemented the program in 2007, it has received an additional $20 million through federal revenues for housing federal inmates at the jail.

“If we didn’t have 287 (g), then the county’s property taxes would be higher,” Sutton said.

The number of inmates processed through 287 (g) has decreased nationwide during the past year. Alamance County has also experienced a decrease in the number of those processed through the program.

ICE Southern Region Communications Director Vincent Picard said earlier this year that Secure Communities would be more efficient and cost effective in identifying and removing criminal aliens than the 287 (g) program. ICE plans to discontinue the least productive 287 (g) task force agreements in those jurisdictions where Secure Communities is already in place.

The Department of Homeland Security has expanded Secure Communities from 14 jurisdictions in 2008 to more than 1,700 jurisdictions today. DHS is on track to expand Secure Communities to all law enforcement jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.

According to ICE, more than 110,000 illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, including more than 39,000 convicted of aggravated felony offenses like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children were removed from the United States after identification in Secure Communities.

Currently, ICE has 287 (g) agreements with 68 law enforcement agencies in 24 states. Since January 2006, the 287 (g) program is credited with identifying 287,311 potentially removable aliens. ICE has trained and certified more than 1,500 state and local officers to enforce immigration law.

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