Las Vegas police refer 2,000 inmates to immigration officials

The Metropolitan Police Department forwarded the names of nearly 2,000 inmates to federal immigration officials during the first 10 months of a controversial partnership that allows specially trained corrections officers to start deportation proceedings against immigration violators.

The agreement between the Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officially began Nov. 15 and is limited to the Clark County Detention Center.

Nearly 10,000 county jail inmates through Sept. 19 were identified as being born outside the country or their identities were in question, said officer Jacinto Rivera, a Las Vegas police spokesman.

Police sent the names of 1,849 inmates who were determined to be in the country illegally to ICE for possible deportation.

It's unknown how many of those inmates were deported. ICE doesn't track removals that way, the agency said Wednesday. Illegal immigrants referred to the agency by local law enforcement become part of ICE's larger caseload. Those cases can drag on for months or even years.

The Police Department's partnership with immigration officials has always been narrower in scope than that of Maricopa County in Arizona and does not allow officers to arrest people for immigration violations. Only once an individual has been arrested on unrelated charges can he or she be screened for possible deportation.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie has repeatedly insisted the partnership is meant to target violent criminals.

In fact, police did not forward to immigration officials the names of an additional 1,808 inmates who also were identified as being in the country illegally because those inmates had no violent criminal history, Rivera said. Overall, 62,803 people were booked into the county jail between Nov. 15, 2008, and Sept. 19, 2009.

Hispanic and civil rights groups have fiercely criticized "287 (g)" partnerships, named for the corresponding section of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, saying they target Hispanics and could lead to racial profiling and make people afraid to report crimes.

"Evidence is mounting across the country that 287 (g) programs are being run in problematic ways," said Maggie McLetchie, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. "We understand federal immigration laws need to be enforced, but that's the job of federal immigration officers, not the job of" Las Vegas police.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at or 702-383-4638. Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at or 702-383-0285.