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Report: Immigration Enforcement Up In Gwinnett County Since Trump Took Office

Gwinnett County participates in a program that allows local law enforcement to perform certain duties of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at county jails.
Gwinnett County participates in a program that allows local law enforcement to perform certain duties of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at county jails.
Credit Bryan Cox / Associated Press file

Gwinnett County’s jail has transferred more than twice as many people into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since President Donald Trump took office, according to a report released Tuesday by the Migration Policy Institute.

The report looked at how immigration enforcement has changed under Trump’s administration, looking at 15 counties and cities in seven states, including Georgia.

The report found that the number of people transferred into ICE custody from county jails increased by 248 percent in Gwinnett County from Jan. 20, 2017, through May 4, 2017, than the period the year before – one of the largest increases in counties the researchers looked at.

Gwinnett participates in a program known as 287(g), which allows local law enforcement to perform certain duties of an immigration enforcement officer at county jails. Five other Georgia counties, including Cobb and Hall, as well as the Georgia Department of Corrections, also participate in the program.

“Where there is a program like that in place, it means there’s more staffing, more resources to identify immigrants who could be deported — and that tends to lead to more deportations from those counties,” said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute.

The report found that ICE also issued nearly quadruple the number of “detainers” in Gwinnett County in 2017 than the previous year. Detainers are requests from immigration enforcement officials to hold people in custody an extra 48 hours for immigration enforcement purposes.

“The rapid increase in detainer issuance in Gwinnett County again corresponds with reports of increasing numbers of immigrants pulled over by the police there for driving infractions and booked into the county jail,” the report said.

The report found that 70 percent of immigration detainers were issued by ICE based on traffic violation charges from February 2017 through April 2017 – versus 36 percent during the same period in the previous year.

“The real risk in Georgia is driving. Driving without a license is an offense that’s punishable by arrest and potentially by jail time,” Capps said. “Anywhere in the state, if an unauthorized immigrant is caught driving, then they can potentially be taken into custody and deported.”

The report, however, said that immigration arrests nationwide are not as high as they were at their peak in 2010 and 2011, as states and cities have chosen to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials.

“We believe the main reason for this is because the state of California and major cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle are not cooperating with immigration enforcement the same way that they were early in the Obama administration,” Capps said.