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.