S.B. County to Help ID Illegal Immigrants
Program would train jail deputies to interview all inmates and hand over to federal officials those they suspect of being here illegally.
By Ashley Powers
Times Staff Writer
August 17, 2005
San Bernardino County supervisors on Tuesday approved a program to identify illegal immigrants booked into the county's jails and turn them over to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation.
"We can not only take them off the streets; we can take them out of the country," said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The plan is similar to one that drew fire when it was approved in Los Angeles County earlier this year. If funded as expected by San Bernardino County, the two counties would be the only ones in California with such programs, said the California State Sheriff's Assn. The Los Angeles County program will target only convicted inmates; San Bernardino County would interview all inmates.
The programs have drawn strong criticism from activists supporting immigrant rights, who say that immigrants — legal and illegal — will start to view law officers as immigration agents and will be afraid to seek help or report crimes.
San Bernardino County estimated that about 15% of the nearly 5,500 inmates in its jails daily are in the country illegally and that many aren't flagged for immigration violations.
The county intends to broker an agreement with the federal government to have immigration agents train nine jail staff members, who could interview all inmates and mark those here illegally for immigration violations.
Immigration agents would supervise this work and take detainees into custody. Currently, the legal status of inmates is checked only by federal agents, whose numbers are limited.
"There's no question that county jails are getting progressively bigger and that there's vast turnover…. We probably don't intercept every alien that comes through the jail," said Kice.
County supervisors are expected to approve spending about $600,000 on the program within a month. It could be implemented as soon as November, officials said. The Sheriff's Department sees the program as a cost-saving measure, saying it takes about $47 a day to house an inmate, whose average stay in a detention center is 28 days.
Supervisor Paul Biane said the program was not aimed at legal immigrants.
Supervisor Josie Gonzales asked if questioning could be restricted to inmates booked for felonies and requested that community groups be consulted.
"We must proceed with respect and dignity," she said.
The similar plan in Los Angeles County, a model for San Bernardino County, was criticized by immigrant and civil rights groups when supervisors approved it 3 to 2 in January.
In October, immigration agents are scheduled to begin training Los Angeles County jail clerks to interview inmates about their immigration status.
"The big problem is the ripple effect," said Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative. "People will just hear that others are getting caught and deported. … [Immigrants] are already afraid to report crimes or issues within their own family, like domestic violence or rape."
Standby for MALDEF lawsuit.
Be a shame if illegals began to think of themselves as something less than full-fledged members of the community, wouldn't it? The thing to do is tell them that EMTs, doctors, and teachers have been deputized as Immigration officers.
In one county, 750 illegals arrested EVERY MONTH, Close the damn border, are they retarded?
New unit to watch jails for immigration offenders
Nine custody specialists to interview, investigate inmates at West Valley
By Brenda Gazzar
August 16, 2005
A nine-member civilian sheriff's unit will be created to help federal officials identify and process criminal illegal immigrants in custody in the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the plan by Sheriff Gary Penrod on Tuesday. The county joins other local governments in Southern California that are starting to take advantage of a little-used provision of the law that allows local governments - under close federal supervision - to help identify and detain immigration offenders who may pose security threats.
San Bernardino County spends at least $980,000 a month or $11.7 million a year to house illegal immigrants at West Valley according to conservative estimates, sheriff's officials said. At least 15 percent of San Bernardino County's inmate population is in the country illegally, with at least 750 illegal immigrants being booked each month, they said.
"Our proposal is to bring civilian employees to our jail system to screen people booked for crimes in our county," Penrod told the board. "We have no intention of going out and doing street enforcement. It's strictly in-custody" enforcement.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, federal immigration officials did immigration checks on almost a daily basis, said sheriff's Capt. Robert J. Fonzi.
"Today, we are lucky if we see them once every two weeks" because of changing priorities and federal staff shortages, Fonzi said. As a result, many criminal illegal immigrants are released from custody without being investigated or having their status documented.
It would cost slightly more than $600,000 a year to employ nine custody specialists, with additional start-up costs estimated at $44,000, Fonzi said. The unit's employee contracts are expected to be approved by the board next month.
Supervisor Paul Biane the sheriff's proposal was a good first step to better identifying the county's illegal inmate population and in curbing recidivism. The unit will allow the county to bring in additional federal reimbursement through the federal government's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), he said.
"Even though there are limited funds, we should see a larger share of those," Biane said after the meeting. "We will be able to document the illegal immigrants who have gone through our prison system with much more accuracy. No. 2, it builds a case (to the federal government) for renewal of SCAAP funding and an increase of SCAAP funding."
The sheriff's new "Identification Processing Unit" would consist of nine custody specialists who would help federal officials interview and investigate inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
Immigration holds will be placed on those who are found to be here illegally so that after they serve their time, they will be released to federal authorities and their case heard by an immigration judge. Even those illegal immigrants who are booked but not found guilty of a crime will be identified and subject to the immigration process by the unit, which is the way federal officials now do it, Fonzi said.
Some community members worry that the unit could violate civil rights, and they say that changing the nation's laws rather than increasing enforcement would more effectively handle the country's immigration-related problems.
"We need to look at bills such as the Kennedy-McCain bill that's proposing a process for immigrants who are here, being able to move toward ... permanent residency and eventually citizenship," said Jose Calderon, president of the San Gabriel and Inland Valley Latino Roundtable.
Penrod plans to meet with community members who have concerns about the proposal in the coming weeks.
Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that there will be a system of checks and balances, and any decision made by the unit will be reviewed by federal agents to make sure it is appropriate.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department recently entered into an agreement with the agency earlier this year to train several custody assistants to help interview foreign-born inmates convicted of crimes to determine whether or not they can be deported.
Orange County is working on a much more comprehensive proposal, which if approved by the agency would involve not only training deputies to identify immigration violators in jails but also to identify suspected criminal alien offenders on patrol operations and in the course of criminal investigations.
If you're legal why would you have a problem reporting a crime or seeking assistance?
If you're illegal then tough fucking shit. Get your fucking invader ass out of my fucking country and then you wouldn't have to worry about it, would you?
*insert dancing banana*
This issue is really gaining speed figure be a big issue in 06
HUGE issue in 08
all I can say is.....IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME!!!!!!!!!
Pardon my french
Now if we can just get the feds to stop releasing the illegals INSIDE THE COUNTRY
Normally, people doing illegal things DO fear cops. Afterall, they are illegal! That's what cops are for.....to catch people who are doing illegal things and stop them.
It seems like the outrage over illegal immigration has finally started to hit home with many folks. Just look at all the stuff we've seen in the past week alone. Let us hope this continues and we can get more needed changes.