Putting Illegal Immigrants on ICE

Trey Christy, News-Sun (Sebring, Florida), July 18, 2008

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A total of 3,942 illegal immigrants were deported from Florida between January and June of 2007, while that number jumped to 5,889 over the same time period this year.

Authorities said 1,251 of that number faced charges such as aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, money laundering, sex offenses and drug charges, according to the Associated Press.

ICE attributes part of its success in identifying illegal immigrants to a program targeting inmates in federal, state and local custody. The program started in June of 2007.

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“How it works is we send our local ICE representative a 24-hour log of every foreign-born person that comes into the Highlands County jail,” Benton said. “ICE runs that information through their computer systems and anyone who is not legally documented in this country . . . they come over and interview the inmates and decide whether or not to put a detainer on them.”

Every foreign-born inmate booked into the Highlands County Jail has their name run through the ICE computer systems.

“They even run people that have papers,” said Tracy Ferrante, a detention support officer who sometimes works with ICE.

The next step, the interview, usually takes three to five minutes.

“The first question they typically ask is ‘are you here legally,’ and usually they’re honest,” Detention Support Officer Denise Morales said. “Most of them will say from the beginning they are illegal. It’s not to their benefit to go to the trouble to (lie) . . . unless they’re trying to hide something.”

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Most of the time detainers are placed on inmates immediately after ICE finds out they are in the country illegally.

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Two-thirds of foreign born inmates that make it to the interview process were detained.

“Once they put on a detainer—say they are in the jail for petty theft—once they get their case finished and are able to be released from our jail, they take them to the ICE office,” Benton said.

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