Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2019

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Metro: Immigration enforcement still limited to the county jail

Henry Yates,

Ricardo Torres-Cortez

Henry Yates, 287 (g) Field Program Manager addresses immigration advocates on Tuesday Dec. 19, 2017, during an administrative public meeting with Metro Police in which they discussed immigration enforcement.

The number of illegal immigrants transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while they are processed through the Clark County jail has gone mostly unchanged in the year since President Donald Trump took office, officials said Tuesday.

When an undocumented suspect is booked and flagged for removal by immigration authorities, agents decide whether to put a 48-hour detainer to pick-up the inmate after they answer to their local charges.

Authorities previously cited a lack of resources for the failure to pick-up all inmates before the 48-hour window expired. But now agents are conducting morning roundups, said Henry Yates, ICE 287(g) Field Program Manager, during an administrative meeting Tuesday between officials from Metro Police and ICE.

The process is discretionary and the corrections officers can decide who to turn over to immigration agents, and Metro maintains that it is on a case-to-case basis, and that something as small as a traffic infraction will likely not lead to a removal order, officials said.

Seven Metro Police corrections officers are being trained by the federal government to be able to exercise some of the functions that immigration agents conduct, officials said. Under the 287 (g) agreement between Metro and ICE, which was originally signed in 2008, those functions are limited to the Clark County Detention Center. Currently, there are four full-time positions.

The additional deputized officers will not fill new positions, but they will allow Metro to cycle them so the agency can have constant coverage in case the full-time officers take time off, retire or transfer, officials said.

In a contentious, but respectful manner, some of the immigration advocates in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting got in a back-and-forth with officials about the fear they say the undocumented community feels about interacting with patrol officers.

The collaboration between ICE and Metro is limited to the jail, and civilians should not fear officers in the street, and should not be afraid to report crimes, police officials said.

A woman told officials that earlier this month she and two others had an interaction with a Metro patrol officer who she said had asked them for their immigration statuses and social security numbers. Metro officials said they would speak to her after the meeting to determine why that happened.

“We’ve never done that under this program. This program is strictly and always has been and always will be a detention-based program,” said Richard Forbus, Metro’s deputy chief of detention services.

Another change under the Trump administration is that undocumented inmates can be placed in a removal process on first criminal offense, compared to the past administration, which required there to be previous convictions, officials said.

“If you’re not arrested by Metro Police and brought into our Clark County Detention Center you’re not being screened during this program, there is no fear of reporting a crime, we’re not out there screening victims and trying to arrest victims because their immigration status, we’re out there to serve the community and keep the safest community in America,” Deputy Chief Forbus said. “The only thing you have to fear is if you get arrested for a criminal offense, our focus is criminal aliens, and always has been with this program.”