Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sheriff: We'll send them back (Lake County News-Sun)

Sheriff: We'll send them back
County moves to deport 75 illegal alien inmates

September 19, 2008
By Nicholas P. Alajakis

WAUKEGAN -- A recent audit shows that more than 20 percent of inmates in the Lake County Jail are illegal immigrants, and Sheriff Mark Curran says his office is taking unprecedented steps to begin deportations.

The Sheriff's Office learned last month that 122 of its 637 inmates (21.5 percent) had either illegal or questionable status in the United States. With help from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, 75 of those inmates had immigration detainers placed on them, and will be eligible for deportation upon completion of their sentences, Curran said.

It's the first time the Sheriff's Office -- or any sheriff's office in Illinois -- has gotten the ball rolling on deportation of jail inmates, said Curran, who blasted the city of Chicago and the state for not taking what he feels is a strong enough stance against illegal immigration.

"As the sheriff of Lake County, I needed to assist the federal government in any way possible," Curran said. "I am able to say to these concerned and frustrated law-abiding citizens of Lake County that the Lake County Sheriff's Office is doing its part in stopping the terror inflicted by many of these illegal aliens."

The targeted immigrants face charges ranging from murder (7) to DUI (25).

The possible deportations come as the Sheriff's Office attempts to obtain 287(g) status from the federal government, which would allow specially trained deputies to begin deportation hearings on inmates convicted of violent crimes, said Wayne Hunter, Lake County's Homeland Security director. It could be two more years before the Sheriff's Office receives 287(g) status, but ICE's almost daily approval of new detainers goes a long way, Hunter said.

"We want to reduce crime, and that's everything that this is about," Hunter said.

There is also a chance to save a few bucks, because under the detainer program ICE is expected to supply reimbursement for inmates being held. At $72 a day per detained inmate, the cost could come out to $1.9 million a year for 75 identified inmates.

Whether the program will actually reduce crime is unknown, but Curran says there is precedent that shows it could. According to a congressional report, in early 2007 Prince William County, Va. -- which also featured about 21 percent illegal immigrants in its jail -- was granted 287(g) status. Within a year, the county had deported more than 1,000 illegal aliens and person-on-person crimes in the county dropped 19 percent.

That type of success speaks to the need to bring the program to Lake County, said Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller, who joined Curran on Thursday in promoting the deportation of illegal aliens who commit violent crimes.

"It's almost mind-boggling. We're not going to get anywhere in this country by ignoring the problem," Waller said.

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