Chase Cook, Capital Gazette, December 27, 2108
County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Thursday a formal end to the county’s 287(g) program, a program that had corrections officials checking inmates in county jails for immigration violations.
The announcement was widely expected after the program was suspended Dec. 4. But in a surprise move, Pittman said he would continue the county’s ICE detainee contract — a separate program from 287(g) at Ordnance Road Correctional Center — for humanitarian reasons and use some revenue from the program to pay for legal aid.
Detention Facilities Superintendent Terry Kokolis told staff to stop screening immigrants Dec. 4, one day after Pittman’s inauguration speech. The 287(g) program allows detention center officers to screen inmates and send immigration status information to U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. ICE removed its computers shortly after that decision.
The detainment deal with ICE pays the county in exchange of holding up to 130 detainees at the correctional center in Glen Burnie. ICE pays $118 a day per detainee with a guaranteed $1.7 million.
The money is placed into the county general fund, and some of it will be used to pay for detainee legal representation in immigration hearings.
Ending the 287(g) program does not mean violent offenders will go onto the streets if they still must serve jail sentences in Maryland, and the federal government still has the opportunity and resources to deport them, Pittman said.
“We will continue to cooperate with ICE,” Pittman said. “I will be disappointed if the federal government decides to crack down on the county for this decision.”
The 287(g) program has been a wedge issue in political debates — supporters argue it helps uncover and deport criminals. Critics say it leads to the deportation of immigrants with minor offenses and creates distrust between immigrants and law enforcement.
The police department does everything it can to make sure people know police officers aren’t going to deport them and build trust, Police Chief Altomare said.
A county without a 287(g) program does not mean violent immigrants subject to deportation are released into the community. The 287(g) program was started in the 90s as a tool to make immigration enforcement more proactive. Criminals charged with crimes still have to serve their time to the state whether the area has a 287(g) program, and ICE still has the authority to carry out immigration enforcement.
Opponents to the 287(g) program argue it erodes trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. They report fewer crimes for fear of deportation.
With Pittman’s removal from the 287(g) program, there are now two in Maryland. The Harford and Frederick County Sheriff’s Office both have agreements with ICE.