Har­ford jail to screen for im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus

ICE will train deputies to look for un­doc­u­mented peo­ple who are crim­i­nals

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Dance and David An­der­son

The Har­ford County sher­iff’s of­fice has joined a con­tro­ver­sial fed­eral pro­gram to check the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of the peo­ple it takes into cus­tody.

The sher­iff’s of­fice is one of fewer than three dozen lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies around the coun­try — and only the sec­ond in Mary­land — to sign on to the pro­gram op­er­ated by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

ICE, part of the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, will train and su­per­vise 10 deputies at the county’s de­ten­tion cen­ter in Bel Air to screen for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who may have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous crimes.

“What we’re go­ing to do is, screen every sin­gle in­di­vid­ual that comes into the de­ten­tion cen­ter, af­ter our deputies are trained, and iden­tify those who are here il­le­gally and fur­ther vic­tim­iz­ing the com­mu­nity,” Sher­iff Jef­frey Gahler said.

A sim­i­lar ar­range­ment has been in place in Fred­er­ick County since 2008.

Har­ford County joins the con­tro­ver­sial pro­gram, which has been chal­lenged in court in Fred­er­ick and around the coun­try, dur­ing a di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in which im­mi­gra­tion has been a ma­jor is­sue. Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald J. Trump has vowed to build a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der and bar for­eign Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try. Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton has said she would push to in­crease path­ways to cit­i­zen­ship within her first 100 days in of­fice.

The 287(g) agree­ment signed by Har­ford County last week is one of sev­eral ways ICE pre­vails upon lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies to help it en­force fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law. Of­fi­cials in Anne Arun­del County are ne­go­ti­at­ing with ICE to hold un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants at the Ord­nance Road Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Glen Burnie.

Ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants say such co­op­er­a­tion en­dan­gers un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who pose no threat to the com­mu­nity. They say im­mi­grants who fear that po­lice will check their sta­tus will be less likely to call them in times of need. Gahler

El­iz­a­beth Alex, Bal­ti­more re­gional di­rec­tor for CASA, called Har­ford’s move “elec­tion-year pol­i­tics,” and an at­tempt “to bal­ance the county’s books on the backs of black and brown peo­ple.”

Of­fi­cials in both Fred­er­ick and Anne Arun­del coun­ties have touted the rev­enue their deals with ICE would bring. ICE re­im­burses lo­cal gov­ern­ments for de­tain­ing peo­ple sus­pected of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Gahler, a Repub­li­can who cam­paigned for sher­iff in part on en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws, said he is only try­ing to catch the most dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals who are in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“We are look­ing for the worst of­fend­ers who are here vic­tim­iz­ing our cit­i­zens here in Har­ford County,” Gahler said. “If they don’t fall within our pri­or­i­ties as a pub­lic safety threat, it’s some­body we’re not in­ter­ested in through this pro­gram.”

ICE uses 287(g) to boost its man­power across the coun­try. The agency has 6,000 of­fi­cers to con­front mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, said Tom Ho­man, ex­ec­u­tive as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor of en­force­ment and re­moval op­er­a­tions.

“For every alien that is cap­tured due to this pro­gram, it’s one less alien that is go­ing to com­mit a crime in this com­mu­nity,” he said.

The Har­ford sher­iff’s of­fice ap­plied to the pro­gram and was ac­cepted be­cause it has “an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion for re­spon­si­ble law en­force­ment,” said Sarah Ro­driguez, an ICE spokes­woman. It is one of 33 agen­cies around the coun­try in the pro­gram, ICE says.

In April, the ACLU asked ICE to re­ject Har­ford’s ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause the county had what it called a “com­par­a­tively high” num­ber of com­plaints over civil rights vi­o­la­tions and po­lice mis­con­duct.

Un­der 287(g), of­fi­cials say, deputies will screen peo­ple who have been ar­rested when they first come into the lo­cal jail. Any­one who is in the coun­try il­le­gally and has com­mit­ted a crime that threat­ens pub­lic safety, na­tional se­cu­rity or bor­der se­cu­rity is turned over to fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

That’s a nar­rower ap­pli­ca­tion of the pro­gram than is per­mit­ted un­der fed­eral law. The pro­gram al­lows ICE to train lo­cal agen­cies to screen the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of of­fend­ers at any point in day-to-day law en­force­ment.

In Fred­er­ick County, sher­iff’s deputies have de­tained more than 1,400 peo­ple un­der 287(g) since 2008, ICE said.

At first, both pa­trol of­fi­cers and cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers were trained to in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions, but the ap­proach in 2012 was nar­rowed to fo­cus on the county jail, ac­cord­ing to the Fred­er­ick News-Post.

About half of the peo­ple Fred­er­ick deputies handed over to ICE last year were from El Sal­vador, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff’s of­fice. Nine­teen per­cent were from Mex­ico, 13 per­cent from Hon­duras and the rest from Gu­atemala, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

In pre­vi­ous years, the county has turned over cit­i­zens of Kenya, Uganda, Bul­garia, China, Sin­ga­pore, Spain and the United King­dom.

Fred­er­ick County Sher­iff Charles A. Jenk­ins has said the pro­gram is needed to stop vi­o­lent gangs from the Wash­ing­ton area from spread­ing north­ward.

The county has de­tained 176 peo­ple who have been charged with a felony and 95 who are sus­pected or known gang mem­bers or who have been trained in fight­ing or mil­i­tary ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to ICE.

Jenk­ins has said the pro­gram has added to bud­get sur­pluses at a time of fis­cal cri­sis for the county. The pro­gram gen­er­ated more than $9.7 mil­lion in jail hous­ing re­im­burse­ments that were de­posited into the county trea­sury, he wrote in the

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