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Program snagging more illegal immigrants than expected

Posted September 17, 2008

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— Since early July, 435 illegal immigrants have been identified in the Wake County Jail under a federal program designed to help local law enforcement authorities get a better handle on immigrants charged with crimes.

The numbers are higher than many federal officials predicted, but Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he wasn't surprised to find illegal immigrants comprise 15 to 20 percent of his daily jail population. About 1,500 inmates are in the jail on an average day.

County detention officers began participating in the federal 287-G program three months ago.The program trains local officers to use federal data to determine the immigration status of people charged with crimes and to begin the deportation process for those found to be in the U.S. illegally.

Harrison and other sheriffs had expressed frustration at not knowing whether someone charged with a crime was in the country illegally because they didn't have access to federal immigration databases.

The uncertainty has led to several instances of an illegal immigrant being released from jail on one charge and subsequently being arrested in a second crime.

Hispanic advocacy groups have complained that the 287-G program is too far-reaching and aggressive toward immigrants.

"The fact that we have 15 to 20 percent in the jail raises a lot of questions for us," said Irene Godinez, advocacy director for El Pueblo. "How is (it) that such a significant portion of our population is being taken into the jails?"

Records obtained by WRAL News show 97 of the identified illegal immigrants were arrested on traffic violations. Another 106 were charged with drunken driving.

"Anybody that doesn't look like us – who isn't brown – could get off with a ticket," Godinez said. "If you're brown, you're taken in and eventually deported."

Harrison rejected claims his officers were profiling Hispanics.

"A lot of them are wanted – been here several times and been deported. Why should I turn my head on that kind of stuff," he said. "They can be critical all they want to, but if these people weren't violating the law, we wouldn't even see them."

Twelve detention officers help carry out the 287-G program in Wake County at an annual cost of about $540,000, as well as $90,000 in start-up costs.

Nearly half of the inmates identified as illegal immigrants have been transferred to federal detention centers.


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  • chicana Sep 22, 2008

    From what i know of immigrants aint hurtin this country..you are....cuz you cant except the fact that america needs immigrants..First sign of acceptance is DENIAL!!!!!!!

  • chicana Sep 22, 2008

    All im saying is the only person that can judge is god..no one else. People gotta do what they gotta do in order to survive.The only question that you gotta ask yourself is "WHAT WOULD I DO IF I WAS IN THEIR SHOES" And be honest dont say i would wait to be legal cuz we all know that aint the answer.

  • Tax Man Sep 19, 2008

    So Chicana, by your argument, if you are hungry it is OK to rob someone for their food. Or if you can't buy a car it is OK to steal one so you can get to work. It is wrong to commit crimes to cure your economic and social problems. If you are unhappy in your native country do something about it to change it - like vote for people who will get rid of corruption. Don't bring your low morals and lack of standards to our country and claim it is for a "better life". You have NO moral character and we do not want illegal low-life criminals bringing their culture of law breaking into our society. Come in legally - show you have moral courage - do not take the cheap easy way out and come illegally - you just show you have no conscience and no moral compass. You are just void of becoming a human being that can live in a society by obeying the law.

  • imback Sep 19, 2008

    "Automobile insurance rates in North Carolina are scheduled to go down 16% and motorcycles liability insurance is set to go down 11%:"

    Maybe because it was too high already? Insurance isnt only for cars you know.

  • imback Sep 19, 2008

    "Political gain, scapegoating, xenophobia, and the other skeletons of a Post-Civil War South."

    yawn. The entire country is upset about illegals. Sorry, your tired old arguments are not going to fly anymore. Interesting that when politicians pander to illegals, its not for "political gain", but when they attempt to do something about illegal aliens, people like you are always ready to throw out the racist charge. I suspect you do that because you have no real logical argument to counter with.

  • cecastromenjivar Sep 19, 2008

    In regards to higher insurance:

    Automobile insurance rates in North Carolina are scheduled to go down 16% and motorcycles liability insurance is set to go down 11%:


  • jayaury Sep 19, 2008


    Maybe their country needs to improve so that way they would not want to come here. If they want to be respected, they need to come in the right way and if they can wait then they need to stay in their home. All they do is cause problems and take out money and raise our insurance. They come here have kids and then we have to pay with our taxes, now that is not fare. No matter what anybody says the truth is, THEY HURT THIS COUNTRY AND PEOPLE SUFFER BECUASE OF THEM!!!!. SEND THEM BACK HOME.

  • cecastromenjivar Sep 19, 2008

    I think the key here is the profiling of Hispanic-looking drivers and the disproportional number of arrests. In 2006, the census reported Hispanics represented only 8% of the population of Wake County, a disproportional 15-20% arrest rate is more than double than the actual number of Hispanics in the county.

    Moreover, despite the sheriff's best effort to position the issue as "combating illegal immigration," only half of those arrested were actually transferred to federal prisons for deportation procedures.

    So why would a police department make all this buzz about only 7 to 10% of its total jailed population?

    Political gain, scapegoating, xenophobia, and the other skeletons of a Post-Civil War South.

    All I am asking is for folks to state what the real impetus behind their "outrage" is and not masked it behind this pseudo-legal jargon. Ultimately, it is not about legal vs. illegal, but about how "threaten" the local native community feels about the influx of Hispanics in NC.

  • Groovy Sep 19, 2008

    No CHICANA, we're not going to stay quiet. This country has laws and people who break them go to jail and/or get deported. Lawlessness is not what this country was founded on and last time I checked, we also have the freedom of SPEECH!

  • chicana Sep 19, 2008

    what i gotta say goes to all those that want the illegals to be deported is this: You think that it is easy to come to this country legally.......well let me break it down for you..ITS NOT EASY TO COME HERE LEGALLY!!!!! The process takes years.... If your family is going through hell in their country your not gonna wait years to give them a better life. You would do the same thing that they are doing. Now you say no i woudnt i would come here legaly....yeah well newsflash....when you go through something like the immigrants go through then youll understand...but until then stay quiet.