Text taken from Naples Daily News
NAPLES — Since a much-debated immigration enforcement program started in Collier County five years ago, the Sheriff’s Office has detained enough unauthorized immigrants to fill every other seat at a Germain Arena concert.
New data obtained by the Daily News shows ICE processed 4,316 individuals for deportation from the county since the 287(g) partnership began in 2007 between the Collier Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
For the majority of those detained, the Collier County jail was their last local stop before federal custody and ultimately, deportation to their home countries.
And that number may be a deciding factor as to whether 18 Collier deputies trained by ICE will continue to perform the federal functions of identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants.
Collier deputies have turned over to federal immigration agents more undocumented immigrants under 287(g) than any other Florida agency operating the program.
A week remains before the agreement to collaborate expires in Collier, and ICE has yet to announce whether the partnership will continue.
Collier isn’t alone. The majority of agreements between the federal agency and 62 law enforcement entities in 24 states are slated to expire in October or November. That includes three others in Florida: the Jacksonville and Bay County sheriffs’ offices and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“At this point in time, all 287(g) agreements up for review are still being considered and no determinations on renewals have been made,” said Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for ICE, which oversees the program.
ICE plans to cut what it calls the “lowest-performing” 287(g) task forces, but it remains unclear how Collier will be affected by the scale-back.
The top 15 agencies still participating in 287(g) nationwide — including Collier — yielded 87 percent of deportations, a Daily News review of ICE data from 2006 through part of 2011 shows.
Collier ranks 13th in the nation, behind police agencies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Houston, in the number of deportations resulting from 287(g) during that period.
To date, participating agencies detained about 300,000 people under 287(g) agreements nationally since 2006, according to ICE.
The Collier Sheriff’s Office leads the four Florida agencies currently involved in the program, accounting for 66 percent of the total individuals in the state processed for removal from the U.S. under 287(g) to date.
At its core, 287(g) is ICE — a federal agency — delegating part of its duties to local law enforcement. There are more local officers than ICE agents, which translates to more officers looking for undocumented immigrants. But in practice, while leading to the removal of immigration violators, sharing those powers also created controversy and court cases.
Here’s a rundown of how the program functions, and what that means for Collier County:
Q. Who is considered “illegal,” “undocumented,” or “unauthorized”?
A. The terms are used to describe non-citizens who entered the country unlawfully or came legally, but overstayed a visa or had their immigration status revoked.
Q. How many undocumented immigrants are there in Collier County?
A. There were 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in March 2008, according to a Pew Hispanic Center estimate. Florida was third behind California and Texas, with roughly 1.1 million. There is no Collier-specific data, but 32 percent of Collier’s population of nearly 78,000 immigrants are naturalized citizens, according to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The remainder includes legal permanent residents, visa holders and undocumented aliens, among others. Immigration status isn’t asked by the Census.
Q. How does 287(g) work?
A. The 287(g) programs are implemented in two ways: a task force model, with 287(g)-trained officers investigating, interviewing, and detaining suspected immigration violators beyond what regular deputies can, and the jail model, where deputies determine through questioning and documents whether people arrested are in the country legally. Agencies could sign on to one or both, like the Collier County Sheriff’s Office did.
The state and local agencies don’t deport anyone, however. Once a local law enforcement agency detains an individual, ICE determines the next step. This can include the individual being deemed a low-priority and released, or sent before an immigration judge. The judge — in Miami for most Collier immigration violators — makes the final determination on removal.
Before local-federal partnerships, federal immigration agents often relied on focused raids, like on a business employing undocumented workers, rather than through daily reports from local agencies on people suspected of violating immigration law.
Q. Why is 287(g) controversial?
A. Proponents of 287(g), like former Collier Sheriff Don Hunter, say the program is effective in removing criminals and law-breakers. ICE insists that repeat immigration violators and violent or career criminals are priorities, and in Collier there are examples of such deportees.
Program opponents agree that in many cases, deportation is warranted. But they point to discrimination as an inherent problem with 287(g), and there is evidence in their favor. Earlier this year, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona and, most recently in September, North Carolina’s Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, were stripped of their 287(g) agreements over discriminatory practices in carrying out the program.
“(We) believe the tendency for violations such as those in Alamance County to happen under 287(g) agreements is reason enough not to renew Collier’s,” Doug Wilson, president of the Collier County ACLU, told the Daily News in a statement.
There also are an estimated 5,100 children in foster care because of detentions or deportations, according to a 2011 report by the Applied Research Center, including 17 in Collier County.
Hunter, who first signed Collier onto the ICE agreement in 2007, is unapologetic: “The fact that they have family here is not on us. It’s on the individual who made the decision to bring their family here.”
Q. Why is the government cutting funding to 287(g)?
A. The review of the program comes ahead of a planned $17 million slash to the $68 million 287(g) budget this coming fiscal year. Cutting low-yielding 287(g) programs will save ICE money, since the agency pays out reimbursements per detainee, and in Collier that has amounted to at least $1.3 million over the years, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
ICE plans to spend $2.8 billion on enforcement and deportation in 2013, focused on expanding the Secure Communities program, which relies on information sharing and database access between local and federal agencies but doesn’t confer federal duties on local officers. Every inmate’s information is checked against immigration files to find violators. From October 2008 through July 2011, participation in Secure Communities led to 1,525 deportations from Collier — second highest in state behind Miami-Dade County — while in Lee, 404 inmates were removed from the country as a result of the program.Q. What is the future of 287(g)?
A. If no renewal is signed by ICE and the Collier Sheriff’s Office when the current agreement ends Oct. 15, a temporary accord must be established, or local deputies cannot continue performing immigration enforcement duties as they have since 2007.
Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk is a staunch supporter of 287(g) , which is named for the section of federal law that created the ICE partnerships with local law enforcement, and has told the Daily News on several occasions he intends for it to stay.
“We have implemented this program sensibly and have employed best practices to ensure that it is administered fairly and in accordance with the law,” the sheriff said in response to an anti-287(g) petition presented at the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 1.