Gwinnett County officials agreed Tuesday to renew a controversial partnership for another three years between the county sheriff’s office and federal immigration officials.
The county first started participating in the program, known as 287(g), in 2009. The program allows certain local law enforcement officers to help enforce federal immigration law. Under the program, local officers can check the legal status of people they arrest and detain them for U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).
County law enforcement officials said the program has been successful. Gwinnett County Chief Deputy Mike Boyd said since 2009, the county has conducted more than 38,000 interviews and have issued more than 13,000 detainers.
“It’s my responsibility to assist the federal government in identifying illegal aliens committing crimes in Gwinnett County,” Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said in an emailed statement.
Critics, including the ACLU of Georgia, have said the program creates distrust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community.
“It may be leading to underreporting of crimes for fear that those that contact the sheriff’s office may have a fear that they will be deported if they call in crimes that they see,” said David Schaefer, director of policy and advocacy at the Latin American Association.
Three other Georgia counties use the program – Cobb, Hall and Whitfield – and 32 law enforcement agencies have similar agreements nationwide.
In fiscal year 2014, the program led to more than 1400 removals from Georgia, according to ICE.