I-Team: Feds Ending Immigration Program With Metro - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Feds Ending Immigration Program With Metro

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Ed. Note: After the following story aired Dec. 26 and was posted online, a spokesperson for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed the I-Team that despite a press release that stated ICE was ending all partnerships with local and state agencies, it will continue to partner with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department in enforcing illegal immigration. The partnership allows Metro Police officers to flag fingerprints of people who have been arrested and are suspected of being in the United States illegally.

The Las Vegas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said ICE's reversal is unfortunate and that people who have been arrested on minor traffic and trespassing violations have been deported because of the program. Metro Police denied the claim and stated that only felons are flagged for deportation.

LAS VEGAS -- Federal agents have told Metro Police they will no longer need to collect information on illegal immigrants.

A controversial partnership between the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security and Las Vegas police will end June 30, 2013, with federal agents deciding to go their own way.

Put simply, it lessens the fear that many immigrants have that should they get picked up for a minor crime by Metro Police officers, they may be deported to their home country.

Federal agents decided to focus on felons living in the United States without legal permission.

This decision brings an end to the controversial 287(g) program, which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enter into a partnership with ICE. Through the agreement, the state or local agencies are delegated authority for immigration enforcement in their jurisdictions.

ICE has deported record number of undocumented immigrants, but figures show it has changed its target, focusing instead on felons.

During ICE fiscal 2012 – July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 -- federal agents removed about 410,000 people across the U.S. Of those, about 55 percent, or 225,000, had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. According to ICE, the number of illegal immigrants removed from the U.S. in 2012 was double that in 2008.

Of those convicted of crimes who were removed in 2012, 1,215 had been convicted of homicide; 5,557 were convicted of sexual offences; 40,448 had been convicted in drug offenses; and 36,166 were convicted of driving under the influence.

Metro Police partnered with ICE in 2008, sending it fingerprint information on suspected illegal immigrants.

In 2010, Metro Police said nearly 2,000 people were deported from its jurisdiction, out of 6,000 people flagged as being in the country illegally when booked at the Clark County Detention Center.

Latino legal activist Helena Garcia said she believes law-abiding people were deported under the 287(g) program.

"There have been people that I know personally that go to jail either on trespassing or a ticket and they're given an immigration hold and they are deported," Garcia said.

Southern Nevada's American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the immigrant fingerprinting program and welcomed its end.

"It essentially takes local police out of the immigration business and allows them to focus on what they're there for, which is to stop state and local crimes," said Allen Lichtenstein, the ACLU's general counsel in southern Nevada.

The end of the program is welcome news to the Shade Tree shelters, where victims of domestic violence might find temporary housing.

A Shade Tree advocate said she believes fear of any contact with police leads immigrant domestic violence victims to not report crimes.

"It is their biggest fear that they'll be deported, or separated from their family or children," said Desiree Petersen, a Shade Tree victim's advocate. "That is their biggest fear. Many women, they don't even seek shelter a lot of times because they're afraid it's going to start the whole chain reaction."

ICE is expected to run its own program called Secure Communities, a federal information-sharing partnership between ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Immigrants who are jailed for minor crimes are not expected to be flagged for deportation under the program.

It only collects the immigration status of known felons or repeat immigration offenders.

Immigrants who are jailed for minor crimes will not be flagged for deportation under this new system.

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