Article published Thursday, July 31, 2008
Immigration agents assigned to jail
Inmates interviewed, screened for citizenship statusBy Lynne P. Shackleford
Federal immigration agents will interview Spartanburg County Detention Facility inmates during the next two weeks to identify illegal immigrants so that they can be deported promptly after they finish serving their sentences.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been on round-the-clock duty the jail for the past week, issuing retainers for inmates who are in the United States illegally. Once they've completed their sentences, the illegals are deported to their home countries, said ICE spokesman Ivan Ortiz.
If an inmate posts bail, the retainer holds the inmate for up to 48 hours until immigration agents are notified, and the inmate is deported before the disposition of the case.
"This is all part of the ICE Secure Communities program, where agents go to the local jails so illegal aliens are deported upon completion of their sentence," Ortiz said. This isn't the first time federal agents have performed checks at the Spartanburg County jail, but it is the first time they've been stationed there for an extended period.
The agents aren't targeting a specific illegal population, Ortiz said, and they routinely identify immigrants from England, Ireland and other countries, although the majority of those deported are Latinos. In 2007, ICE deported 276,912 illegal immigrants.
The Spartanburg County jail runs a background check on every inmate, but there are several steps officers must follow before an inmate is verified as an illegal immigrant, said Detention Center Director Larry Powers.
If a prisoner is verified as an illegal immigrant through an Immigration Alien Query, a retainer is issued. If an ICE agent doesn't respond within the prescribed 48 hours, the jail is obligated to release the prisoner if he or she has fulfilled all other requirements, according to local officials.
Powers deferred all questions on the federal agents' presence at the local jail to federal officials, but said the process is expedited when federal agents process inmates on-site.