FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new partnership between the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency aims to crack down on criminals in the U.S. illegally.
The sheriff's department estimates it books about 100 inmates a day. Now, with help from ICE agents, dozens of undocumented suspects have been deported to their countries of origin.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said, "The solution was to put ICE agents inside our jail, so we don't have inmates or suspects fall through the cracks, causing harm in our community."
Since the pilot program began last month, 23 "criminal aliens" have been apprehended. Two ICE agents are stationed at the jail, screening each inmate before they are let go. The process takes about an hour per person and includes a background check.
ICE Assistant Field Office Director Jose Correa said, "We screen for big picture. For actual crime committed to see if they pose a public safety risk if released."
Before this program was put in place, ICE agents had to file requests with the sheriff's department to be notified whenever a person of interest was set to be released. With agents already inside the jail and more involved the process is now streamlined.
Sheriff Mims said, "With a priority system in place by ICE they're catching people with severe criminal activity or history."
Some of the 23 people apprehended have been charged with rape, domestic violence, or are multiple DUI offenders.
Sheriff Mims added, "The message is, you can't continue criminal activity if you're here illegally and do not have the expectation of remaining here."
Fresno County is one of the only departments in the country with a program like this and ICE officials hope other departments will follow Sheriff Mims' lead.
The Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance released the following statement to action News:
Grassroots Organizations Denounce Fresno County Sheriff Department's Troubling New ICE Deportation Program and Launch ICE out of Fresno Campaign
FRESNO - Earlier today Fresno County Sheriff's Department announced that they had launched a "Unique Program at Fresno County Jail" that began on June 22, 2015. This program will provide two ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers access to inmate records and interview rooms at the jail.
Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance demand an immediate halt to this new pilot program. This is a huge step in the wrong direction and is yet another example of how out of step the Fresno County Sheriff's Department is with the rest of the country. While a growing number of jurisdictions move toward reducing collaboration with ICE, this new program does just the opposite.
"We call on Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims to put an end to all collaboration with ICE," says Oday Guerrero, Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action organizer. "This program is neither 'unique' nor 'progressive' but will instead further erode trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities and reduce the department's credibility. Sheriff Mims should not be in the business of deportation."
These latest efforts represent an attempt at getting around last year's Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County case which found ICE detainers to be completely voluntary and that detention based on these holds were unconstitutional. It also goes against the spirit of the TRUST Act, a state law which seeks to reduce deportations in California. Fresno County should be looking at ways to end their relationship with ICE instead of further entangling local law enforcement with a federal agency that cannot be trusted. The Fresno County Sheriff's Department gets it wrong once again.