Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jails working more closely with immigration officials (The Times and Democrat)

Jails working more closely with immigration officials
By PHIL SARATA, T&D Staff Writer
The Times and Democrat | Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 4:30 am

Being a criminal has always been tough, but being an illegal alien in trouble with the law has gotten tougher in Bamberg and Orangeburg counties.

In April, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began using its Secure Communities program in Orangeburg County. The Department of Homeland Security program identifies criminal aliens by running their fingerprints against federal immigration databases.

Orangeburg-Calhoun Regional Detention Center Director Willie Bamberg said there is no cost to the county to participate in Secure Communities.

"When we get somebody we suspect is an illegal immigrant, we call ICE and give them the name and birth date of the individual," Bamberg said. "They inform us of the charges they have gotten information on and we place a hold on the inmate.

"ICE comes and picks up the inmate in a very quick manner. It helps out the detention center because we are able to release another inmate from our system."

Although official inclusion of Calhoun County is still pending, everyone booked at OCRDC is screened for biometric data under Secure Communities. ICE spokesman Dani Bennett said this occurs regardless of which of the two counties they were arrested in.

Since implementation began in South Carolina in September 2010, 477 aliens have been removed from local jails. Of that number, 216 were criminal aliens convicted of U.S. misdemeanors and felonies and 261 were classified as non-criminals.

"Non-criminal aliens are non-U.S. citizens arrested and booked for a crime who have no recorded convictions," Bennett said in an email. "They have one or more immigration violations, and are priorities for ICE to remove due to various reasons, such as visa overstay, illegal entry or re-entry, etc."

The latest figure on the ICE website shows South Carolina is home to 195,069 immigrants. In 2010, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated there are between 20,000 and 75,000 illegal immigrants.

No criminal or non-criminal aliens have been taken into custody from the Bamberg County Detention Center since it began taking part in Secure Communities in November 2010.

Detention Center Director Joe Glover said the program uses the existing South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division information system.

"We send fingerprints to SLED," Glover said. "It sends them to NCIC (the National Crime Information Center), which tracks convicted felons from other states.

"It is beneficial for us. It instantly gives our officers the ability to know who we have in front of us. This allows us to classify the prisoner so we can incarcerate them in the proper section of the jail."

Glover wants to expand the program's potential by integrating the detention center's computer system with the Bamberg County Sheriff's Department "so we can send this information to deputies on the road," Glover said.

No comments: