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Deportation “Surge” Begins in Georgia County Jails

January 13, 2009 04:16 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Immigration and Customs officials will spend 26 days screening the inmates of Gwinnett County, Georgia, looking for illegal aliens to deport.

Officials to Screen and Deport Illegal Aliens in Georgia Jails

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On Jan. 12, U.S. immigration agents began a 26-day “surge” of immigration screenings of jails in Gwinnett County, Georgia, intending to deport illegal immigrants who have been arrested.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s department does not currently track illegal immigrants entering its prison system, though it does monitor those who are foreign born.

Gwinnett County has been hoping to become part of an ICE initiative that trains local jailers to complete deportation paperwork to send criminal illegal immigrants home. Three other Georgia counties have already joined the program.

Not all Georgia citizens are happy about the initiative, however: the nonprofit coalition Georgia Detention Watch, which includes persons of faith, lawyers and community organizers, said in a press release that it “condemns in the strongest terms this effort of expulsion of immigrants, many of whom are hard-working members of our communities.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway emphasized that the program does not entail racial profiling or a violation of civil rights, noting that it targets only individuals who have been arrested for a crime. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported this story, did not mention whether Conway specified if the individuals screened would all have been convicted for those crimes. 

Background: Deportations on the rise

Deportations of illegal aliens have reached an all-time high in 2008: more than 345,000 illegal aliens were removed from the United States, compared to 288,000 in 2007. The ICE attributed the rise to the expansion of the Criminal Alien Program (CAP).

According to an official statement released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CAP  “focuses on identifying criminal aliens incarcerated in federal, state and local facilities. Once a criminal alien is identified, ICE lodges an immigration detainer against the individual to ensure they are turned over to ICE for removal upon completion of their criminal sentence.”

Officials have traditionally targeted convicted criminals when enforcing immigration law, as customs officials must state reasons for deportation. The law specifies that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, can be deported if they have conducted crimes of "moral turpitude” or "aggravated felonies."

Reference: Immigration policies

For more information on U.S. immigration laws and policies regarding legal and illegal immigrants, see findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Immigration.

Related Topic: Deported immigrants have higher crime rate

Last year the Los Angeles Times reported on a study by the nonprofit Rand Corp., which found that illegal immigrants who have been deported at least once are more likely than other immigrants to engage in continual criminal behavior. However, illegal immigrants overall did not pose a greater criminal threat to the Los Angeles community.
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