Federal officials to eliminate Collier patrol deputies’ right to seek out illegal immigrants
By Victoria Macchi
see NDN version here
NAPLES — The federal government Friday whittled a controversial immigration enforcement policy in place in Collier County and around the country, after months of uncertainty about its future.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that part of the 287(g) program, which allows trained local police to question and detain undocumented immigrants – once strictly a federal initiative – will end Dec. 31.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is one of 25 local or state police agencies in the U.S. that has that “task force” model, under which deputies make arrests while on patrol or as the result of an investigation.
What will remain in place is the jail model, in which Collier also participates, that allows for ICE-trained local deputies to review inmate intake files and question inmates following an arrest to assess their legal status.
Collier is one of four police agencies in Florida that still have some form of 287(g) program in place.
Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, a stalwart supporter of 287(g), praised ICE’s decision to maintain the jail model while lambasting the cuts to the program.
“I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security is extending the 287(g) Corrections program for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the decision not to renew the 287(g) operations task force comes as a disappointment,” Rambosk said in a written statement Friday, adding that he has no doubt the elimination of the task force “will make it more difficult to remove criminal aliens from the community.”
ICE didn’t elaborate on how long it will continue authorizing the jail model, which is also set to expire at the end of the year. There are 32 police agencies that have only a 287(g) jail enforcement model, in addition to eight others that used both.
The 287(g) program opened immigration enforcement to local and state agencies, allowing them to apply for participation and training starting in 2007, when then-Collier Sheriff Don Hunter signed the agency onto the program. It was subsequently renewed by the current sheriff, and there now are 18 Collier officers deputized to perform immigration enforcement.
The program’s critics, like Grey Torrico, a Collier activist who organized petitions and protests against 287(g) throughout the year, believe it foments racial and ethnic discrimination and should be eliminated. Court cases from North Carolina to Arizona have shown that the program can indeed cross those lines.
“This is not enough for our communities to continue being detained under this failed program and as a community member, I still contend that not only should the 287(g) agreement be ended, but we should have a bigger discussion regarding terminating police-ICE collaboration at the local level,” Torrico said.
The Department of Homeland Security now favors the Secure Communities program, which allows for database-sharing among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to cross-reference immigration status with inmate information.
ICE reported Friday that, from October 2011 to September 2012, the agency deported 409,849 individuals, a sharp increase from about 291,000 people five years ago.