RIVERSIDE—Riverside County sheriff’s deputies will ferret out and help the U.S. government deport undocumented immigrants arrested on criminal charges, under a plan adopted Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
The board, in a unanimous vote and with little opposition from the public, agreed to have the U.S. Department of Homeland Security train 10 deputies to enforce immigration laws.
The four-week federal program will train deputies to identify and investigate criminal undocumented immigrants, and will cover such topics as interrogation, background checks and preparing affidavits for deportation, according to a report submitted to the board by Sheriff Bob Doyle.
“We’ll be sending 10 deputies for training,” Undersheriff Neil Lingle said. “I am not sure whether we will expand (the program). It must be evaluated first.”
The agreement with Homeland Security comes at a sensitive time as protests against the pending anti-immigration legislation now stalled in the U.S. Senate have spread across the country over the past several weeks. Among other issues, protesters oppose making it a felony to be an undocumented resident in the United States.
Lingle downplayed the political undertones of the program, noting that the motive for training deputies for limited immigration enforcement is to prevent illegal residents convicted of crimes from returning to the county.
He told the board that the number of illegal immigrant prisoners in Riverside County jails fluctuates between 10 percent and 25 percent of the inmate population. It costs the county an average of $29,700 per year to house each inmate, he said.
Supervisor John Tavaglione noted that it costs an average of $5 million a year to house illegal immigrant inmates, while the federal government reimburses the county $1.5 million annually.
Lingle said the Sheriff’s Department had sought the training program since last August, but had not been able to obtain the necessary approvals from the U.S. government until recently.
“It was very difficult to get certification in Washington, D.C.,” he said.