Friday, February 15, 2008

ID Program is Working

Gene Cafarelli wrote:

CK is a friend of the MCDC. I met him at Camp Anvil where he was interviewing volunteers for his radio talk show (WKYH—600AM). He makes an important point---that smaller communities are becoming more involved in the IA problem.

Gene; This is from the Lexington Herald, Feb 17... It appears that Kentucky is waking up... Keep in mind that Lexington is not that big of a town.

New immigration policy has ID'd dozens
By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

Since Mayor Jim Newberry's new immigration policy went into effect Feb. 1, the Fayette County Detention Center has been sending the names of 13 to 20 people born outside the United States to federal immigration officials each day.

And in the last three weeks, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Kentucky say they have put deportation detainers on an estimated 40 foreign-born nationals who are booked into the Lexington jail.

However, determining exactly how many foreign-born nationals are affected by Newberry's policy could prove difficult.

Urban County Government officials, ICE, and local prosecutors are all gathering different numbers from different time frames that show how many immigrants are eligible for deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said one thing is clear: "We have noticed an increase in activity in the past three weeks. As a result of Lexington's new policy, ICE anticipates a growing increase in detainers placed on criminal aliens at the jail."

Montenegro said the jail is faxing a daily list of foreign-born inmates to ICE -- by her agency's estimate more than 20 new arrests each day. That list includes people arrested for misdemeanors as well as felonies. The majority of those people eligible for deportation, Montenegro says, are felons.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Newberry, said that jail records show lower numbers than the ICE estimates: an average of 13 names of foreign-born nationals sent each day and 21 detainers in the last three weeks. Part of the reason for the confusion, Straub says, could be that detainer orders can be issued by ICE at any time while inmates are in jail, not just when they are arrested.

Montenegro said that typically, her agency doesn't track numbers of the names they get from specific jails or how many detainers result from that. She said she gathered estimates solely because the Herald-Leader asked for them.

First Assistant Fayette County Attorney Brian Mattone said that when his office asked for numbers from the jail on Feb. 8, when the policy had been in effect for one week, he was told that 98 names had been sent to ICE from the jail and that only two deportation detainers had been filed since Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, Fayette Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson has, since November, been asking ICE to review the names of all people charged with felonies who don't appear to have a legitimate Social Security number and who were born outside the United States.

From November until now, Larson said, he asked ICE to review the immigration status of 32 people who had been charged with felonies. One turned out to be a legal resident, and 31 were illegally in the United States, he said. ICE put deportation detainers against 22 of them. The other nine had already been released from the jail when they came to the attention of ICE, Larson said. Of the nine, scheduled court appearances have come up for two. They failed to appear and face additional charges as a result.

Larson said the charges include murder, first-degree rape, robbery and burglary, drug charges and charges related to having fake identification.

Under Newberry's new policy, the jail sends a report to the ICE office daily containing information about all people booked that day who were born outside the United States. ICE has the option of issuing a detainer order for an individual so that it can pursue possible immigration law violations.

If there is no detainer order by the time a person is eligible for release, the person will be released. If a detainer order is issued before the inmate would normally be eligible for release, the person can generally be held for up to 48 hours beyond the normal release date.

The policy has sparked controversy, particularly within Lexington's immigrant community. Lexington immigration attorney Rachel A. Newton said that advocates are not taking issue with sanctions against dangerous criminals.

"I don't know of anyone who would protest violent people being removed from the community as long as everyone got due process," she said.

Aaron Hutson, Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the numbers sent to ICE should be tracked carefully and that a written policy should be in place at the jail.

Hutson said he is concerned that foreign-born legal residents and U.S. citizens who are jailed for a minor offense might be deported by mistake, as has happened occasionally in other cities. In Lexington, he said, foreign-born legal residents and U.S. citizens both inside and outside of the Hispanic community are fearful.

Hutson said his group would like to implement a program in which volunteers would be trained to go into the Fayette Detention Center and monitor how the immigration policy works.

"Just to have an extra set of eyes and ears would make sure that people's rights are respected," Hutson said.

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