JONESBORO, Ark. – Officers at Craighead County Jail will soon be among only a handful of other county jails in Arkansas with an official ICE agreement.
On Wednesday, Sheriff Marty Boyd told NEA Report he had signed a 287(g) agreement with ICE. It was signed in February. The sheriff will enter into a type of agreement called the jail enforcement model, where deputized officers may interrogate suspected noncitizens who were arrested on other state or local charges. The officer may place a detainer on the noncitizen thought to be subject to removal. The noncitizen must still go through the justice process before any potential deportation.
“In the past, we have had individuals come through the detention center that have taken us days and weeks to identify which is unfair to my staff and is time consuming,” Boyd said. “With the partnership with ICE, it puts software in our facility that is unobtainable without this agreement. It allows us to properly identify someone in a very efficient manner that, what could take weeks now will take hours.”
Two employees will graduate at the end of this week in South Carolina from specialized training, Boyd said. ICE pays for the training and will also purchase a special computer to be used by officers who have been trained. The software to be used must be installed on a federal government’s computer – and not a local one.
The sheriff emphasized that this does not mean officers will be going door to door looking for undocumented immigrants.
While the agreement may be symbolically significant to some, Boyd said it really doesn’t change what is already taking place.
“I know the criticism comes from the fear that we’re going to come out and go door to door and start looking for people who are undocumented and that is not the case,” Boyd said. “We’re going to model this program where if someone comes to jail, we will identify that person, and will put a detainer on them for ICE – which we do already.”
But this will likely increase those instances, Boyd acknowledged. The sheriff’s office will have an easier time identifying undocumented immigrants who are filling up their already overcrowded jail.
With the new arrangement, Craighead County will be one of three counties in Arkansas working this way with ICE. Washington and Benton counties participate in northwest Arkansas but DHS maps show no such agreements in place in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, or Mississippi. As such, the NEA location will soon be the only such one in a very large region of the southeast.
It is a political ‘hot potato’ of sorts for 2019 and Boyd is very aware of that. He said he already had meetings today with some people who weren’t pleased. He also said he expects more backlash including possible protests or demonstrations involving out-of-town activists.
“I’ve already had some meetings with people who are not happy with it,” Boyd said. “My response is: I was elected to enforce the laws of our country, our state, and our county. And I take that job very seriously. Utilizing this program, it allows us to take an individual who has broken a law – they’re coming to jail – identify that person, and peacefully remove that person from our society.”
Critics of the 287(g) program say it nets very few violent criminals and can result in increased racial profiling.
A report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) said the program doesn’t target serious offenders despite statements made by administrators. About half of those noncitizens involved were arrested for misdemeanors and traffic offenses.
Two different Department of Justice investigations also found that sheriff’s offices involved engaged in a pattern and practice of constitutional violations by targeting Latinos unfairly. Some set up checkpoints in the entrances to their neighborhoods. In Maricopa County, Arizona and in Alamance County, North Carolina, Latinos were nine to ten times more likely to be arrested by 287(g) participating sheriff’s departments.
In the next 90 days, it is expected there will be a public forum meeting facilitated through ICE about the changes and the procedures, Boyd said. He will be present to answer questions at those forums.
NEA Report will publish the schedule of such public events once they are decided.