Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sheriff slams president's illegals stance (The Marietta Daily Journal)

Sheriff slams president's illegals stance
by Lindsay Field
The Marietta Daily Journal
August 23, 2011 12:00 AM

MARIETTA - Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren said that he has a problem with President Obama's announcement last week to go easy on illegal immigrants in the U.S. and focus only on deporting those who are violent criminals.

"I really believe that because of our economy being in such bad shape now .... and with all of his failed policies on jobs and stimulus, I think he's looking for votes," Warren said. "I think he's lost credibility with voters who voted for him."

In July 2007, the Cobb County Sheriff's Office was approved by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to detain illegal immigrants per the 287(g) program. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the 287(g) program allows a state and local law enforcement officials to delegate immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

"I don't think it's right. These policies aren't going to do anything but send an invitation out to more aliens to enter our country illegally," Warren added. "Whether they bring illegal drugs or simply are looking for drugs, I think it's going to create a burden on the taxpayers of the United States."

However, Warren does not think that the policy change will have an impact on the way he and his staff perform their duties at the county jail.

"We are going to continue to do what we've done, that's enforce the laws," Warren said. "Whatever that may be, we're going to do it equally."

In 2010, of the 31,050 inmates booked in the Cobb County Jail, 1,695 were illegal immigrants reported to ICE. Between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2011, Warren said that among the 16,575 inmates booked, the department has placed immigration holds and started initial deportation proceeding against 755 illegal immigrants.

With each person that is booked in the jail, one of Warren's 20 deputies who is authorized to act as immigration officers under the supervision of ICE, are checked for citizenship. Warren said process is practiced nationwide.

"If you are a citizen of a foreign country, then I'm responsible to notify your country that you're here," he said.

Weekly data proves to Warren that taking illegal immigrants into custody and reporting them to ICE when needed is a benefit to the community.

"Of those 190 (arrested) last week, everyone of those individuals has charges pending. They committed some violation of the local or state law here in Cobb County," Warren said. "Over two-thirds were for felony charges. The other third were for misdemeanors."

Warren said that he does believe the policy change will additionally create issues for federal law enforcement agencies.

"I just think that the Department of Homeland Security is choosing to selectively enforce the immigration laws," said Warren, adding that the burden will come on the border patrol and ICE officers who are charged with removing offenders.

Prior to 287(g) being added to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office in 2007, Warren said that his department partnered with the Immigration and Naturalization Services to deal with the illegal immigration problems.

"We saw that as a problem here years ago but it was unofficial and they tried to work with us to deal with the problem," Warren said. "We didn't have the resources because the folks in Washington didn't want to provide the resources. I applied for it (in 2005) and come to find out, we were the first sheriff's office in the state to apply for it and probably among the first 10 in the United States."

Since applying for the 287(g) program, Warren said his department has seen a reduction in the number of illegal immigrants who come through the county jail.

"Since we started this program, the numbers that I've looked at, are down about 50 percent," Warren said.

On Sunday, Fox and Friends anchors interviewed Warren because he is considered one of "America's Top 10 Toughest Immigration Sheriffs," according to previous reports by the news affiliate.

The live feed included Warren answering questions about his take on the policy change by President Obama.

"I'm very passionate about the 287(g) program," Warren said. "If you're going to be in our country, there's a right way to do it. Our country was built on immigrants coming here, making the United States what it is. There's 1,000s and 1,000s doing it the right way and I just have a heartburn for folks who circumvent the law."

"I don't deport anybody... I don't even have the authority to hold them in custody on an ICE situation. I do that based on ICE telling me," Warren said. "The argument is that I'm splitting up families. Because they are accused of making bad decisions, that's what is splitting up families."

Richard Pellegrino, director of Cobb Immigrant Alliance, said that he is ecstatic about the president's move.

"That's really what the policy should have been from the beginning of his administration," Pellegrino said about the president's policy change. "It's a good step forward in terms of protecting families and those who are not criminals."

Pellegrino added that his constituents are "cautiously optimistic, because they are aware it is political season."

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