York County Sheriff's Office holds public forum on 287g program

YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - The York County Sheriff's Office hosted a public forum at the Moss Justice Center Tuesday night to discuss the federal program known as 287g.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 287g allows federal, state and local authorities to work with ICE and enforce immigration laws in its jurisdictions.

York County is one of four counties in the Palmetto State that is a part of the 287g program. According to ICE, it partners with 76 law enforcement agencies across 20 states. It has certified more than 1,800 officers to enforce immigration laws.

In March, some citizens in Mecklenburg County called on the Sheriff to end their partnership with ICE in the program. Some of those who oppose 287g claim it is tearing families apart and resulting in the deportation of offenders who are not violent and do not have a chance to prove their innocence.

At Tuesday's forum in York, there were no citizens who spoke for or against the program, so instead authorities took the time to clarify misinformation that has been spread about the program.

First, they say 287g does not target the Hispanic community because the only way a person could be reported as unlawful is if they are arrested for an unrelated crime.

"We are not out in the public plucking people out indiscriminately," Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

In fact, 287g does not give local officers any more arresting powers. The only opportunity they have to enforce immigration laws is inside the jail walls by reporting an unlawful immigrant to ICE after he or she is arrested.

"If you're a witness or a victim of a crime, that is not grounds for your arrest. The only way a person would be encountered under 287g is if they themselves have broken the law to warrant their arrest and book into the county detention center," ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.

In 2017, those who were arrested an reported to ICE by 287g came from 20 different countries.

Some argue that unlawful immigrants should not be reported to ICE if they have been arrested for a misdemeanor or nonviolent crime, but ICE officials say it's for the safety of everyone involved.

"Undocumented people, often don't have documents. So what that means is you may encounter someone in a local jail on what seemingly is a low-level crime, but that person may have used a different name somewhere else on what was a violent criminal offense," Cox said.

According to Sheriff Tolson, since the department's involvement with 287g in 2007, 1800 offenders have been reported to ICE.

Neither ICE nor the Sheriff's Office plays a role in deciding whether an undocumented immigrant is deported. They say a federal judge makes that decision after the person goes through the judicial process for the original crime in which they were arrested for.

York County's memorandum of agreement allows some trained officers to enforce immigration laws, with the help of ICE, until 2019. Right now, there are seven detention officers certified. You can read more about the agreement here.

For more information about the program click here.

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