May 6, 2010 5:54 AM by John Romero
About two years ago officials at the El Paso County jail began to notice a rise in illegal immigrants behind bars. The Sheriff's Office along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement joined forces to implement a program called 287(g). It allows jail deputies to begin deportation functions with federal authority. "We're able to start what ICE normally waits to do until after their local charges have been taken care of." explains El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
Since 2008 the county says deputies have interviewed nearly 2400 people in jail. 679 of them were then deported. Maketa says it's saving the county money on prisoners who would be held longer waiting for ICE. "We're housing about 30% of what we were housing 3 years ago." he says, "That's saving over a million dollars a year."
Under the rule, jail deputies must have reasonable suspicion to interview someone. "Maybe they don't have a license or id, they give a name with a surname, they indicate they're foreign born and not from this country... that's what really triggers it." says Maketa. As to the question of whether or not racial profiling is occurring, Maketa says that's not the case. "The racial profiling I think is seriously overstated as an emotional reaction." he says, "There isn't racial profiling. It comes down to reasonable suspicion from making contact and to take custody there has to be probable cause."