Local News

Immigration program could be cut from Wake sheriff's budget

Posted February 2, 2009 4:57 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— A program that lets deputies find out the immigration status of inmates in the Wake County jail may be in jeopardy as the Wake County Sheriff's Office looks at ways to trim next year's budget.

Wake County Manager David Cooke has asked all county departments to cut their budgets by 4 percent and to begin looking at ways to reduce next year's budget by 10 percent if further cuts are needed.

In July, 12 county detention officers began participating in the federal 287-G program, which costs about $500,000 a year to run and trained them in how 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.

More than 1,000 people have been identified through the program, which Sheriff Donnie Harrison calls successful.

"Yes, that will be one of the areas we will look at," Harrison said. "Will we eliminate it? We don't know yet."

Right now, when inmates are processed into the Wake County jail, they automatically have their immigration status checked using fingerprints. If funding for 287-G is cut, only people charged with the most serious crimes will have their status checked.

Tony Asion, with the Hispanic advocacy group El Pueblo, wants to see the program scrapped. He believes the federal government should handle immigration issues.

"It is costing the state and local communities an awful lot of money they shouldn't have to be paying for," he said.

But Harrison said that without the program, citizens will be the ones who pay with a loss of public safety.

"There's a lot of people going to fall through the cracks," he said.