28 inmates deported under new partnership

Immigration officials deported 28 foreign-born Clark County jail inmates during the first month of a new partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department.

The partnership, which officially began Nov. 15, allows specially trained corrections officers at the Clark County Detention Center to identify immigration violators and start deportation proceedings against them.

Through mid-December, 882 people booked into the jail were identified as foreign-born and screened for their immigration status. Of those, 114 were identified as being in the United States illegally. Their names were forwarded to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Twenty-eight either have been removed from the United States or are in holding stations awaiting removal, police said.

“Preliminary numbers show it (the partnership) is in compliance with what we wanted it to be: one additional tool to target the criminal element,” police spokesman Jacinto Rivera said.

But some said the figures released last week by Las Vegas police raise red flags.

“That boils down to roughly one person per day being deported,” said Judy Cox, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “They’ve created a deportation machine. It’s going to create a huge rift in the community.”

Hispanic and civil rights groups have criticized the agreement, saying it targets Hispanics and could lead to racial profiling and make people afraid to report crimes.

Police have emphasized that the program is meant to reduce the number of violent criminals in the community and will not extend beyond the walls of the detention center.

But they and immigration officials have acknowledged that any illegal immigrants booked into the jail, regardless of the severity of charges against them and whether they’re found innocent of those charges, could be subject to deportation.

“This isn’t just about getting violent criminals off the street,” Cox said. “Anybody who comes in contact with the police, and is unfortunate enough to be arrested and charged with anything from a DUI to a felony, can be deported.”

Rivera said 75 of the 114 inmates identified as being in the country illegally had been charged with felonies from murder to drug trafficking. The others faced misdemeanor charges, the majority related to domestic violence or driving under the influence.

Information about charges against the 28 deportees was unavailable, as was information about the outcome of their criminal cases.

Inmates who are found to be undocumented are turned over to immigration officials only after their charges have been settled in court. Those who could end up being deported include formerly legal residents who lost their legal status after being convicted of crimes.

News of the 287(g) agreement, named for the corresponding section of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, has inspired fear in immigrant communities, said Xavier Rivas, host of a Spanish-language call-in radio talk show on KRLV-AM, 1340.

“Callers are really worried,” Rivas said. “They’re afraid Metro is going to act as immigration officers. They are scared.”

Ten corrections officers underwent several weeks of training with ICE officials as part of the agreement, which is the first of its kind in Nevada. The officers have access to a federal database of known immigration violators that tells them whether an inmate has been deported before or whether the citizenship status of that inmate is in question.

Jail officials are authorized to put immigration detainers on inmates determined to be legally deportable, allowing ICE to step in upon resolution of criminal cases.

Police have said 19 percent to 22 percent of the county jail’s estimated 3,300 inmates are foreign-born. About 160 suspects are processed on a busy day.

The Metropolitan Police Department applied for the partnership in 2007. ICE officials have said enforcement efforts are more effective in areas with such agreements.

Nationally, 63 local and state police groups have immigration partnerships.

Increasing state and local partnerships are the cornerstone of ICE’s Secure Communities plan, which aims to target foreign-born criminals in jails nationwide.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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