The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possibility of participating in a federal program that would identify illegal immigrants when they are arrested so federal authorities can be notified.
The “287g” program allows local law enforcement agencies to enter an agreement with federal immigration officials which empowers certain officers and deputies to use federal resources to determine whether an arrested person is an illegal U.S. resident.
Sheriff Wayne Hannah said his office is investigating what it will take to qualify for the program, which is operated under the supervision of the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency.
Under the program local deputies, when they determine a person is here illegally, send a notification to ICE.
But it’s up to the federal immigration officials as to whether or not the suspect will be deported or not, Hannah said.
“Even if we did participate, we don’t have the final authority or say-so on who gets deported,” Hannah explained.
The 287g program would not result in suspected illegal immigrants being rounded up at various locations around the county, Hannah said.
Jailers are already identifying whether arrested persons are U.S. citizens or non-citizens, under a Georgia law adopted in 2007. But jailers cannot yet make the distinction as to which of the non-citizens are here illegally, Hannah said.
The current screening process does capture some people who are here illegally, Hannah noted. He recalled a woman arrested recently by Peachtree City for a license violation was determined to have an expired visa, and so ICE officials were contacted.
ICE deported the woman, Hannah said.
The sheriff’s office has one agent assigned to work with ICE agents, so there is a level of cooperation with the agency already, Hannah noted.
Now it’s just a matter of working with ICE to determine if Fayette County qualifies to participate in the program, Hannah said. It is likely that the county will have to show a certain percentage of arrested persons booked in the jail are illegal or are suspected to be illegal, which is data the jail currently doesn’t track, he said.