KNOXVILLE (WATE) – According to a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, some Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies can perform certain functions of an immigration officer.
Deputies nominated by the sheriff’s office to be part of the program would have to pass a certification program. They are also required to pass a refresher course every two years.
Under ICE supervision, certified deputies would be allowed to interrogate and detain people who they believe don’t have a right to be in the United States and process them for immigration violations. They would be able to remove aliens from the jail who have been arrested for violating a federal, state or local offense.
In the memorandum, deputies would also have the power to warrants for immigration violations, compile evidence and take oaths for alien processing, as well as prepare affidavits for ICE review. Deputies also have the power to prepare charging documents.
“If you’re here illegally, and you’re a law abiding citizen, you’ll never know 287(g) exists,” said Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J. Jones” when he applied for the program.
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Sheriff Jones said he believes the program will save taxpayer money. According to Jones, people suspected of being in the country illegally stay in the Knox County Jail for 30-40 days before ICE can make a determination. He says the cost per inmate is around $100 per day.
However, several groups in Knox County have protested the program. Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors says they are worried about racial profiling. The group says some people are afraid if they ever need to call law enforcement, they will be more concerned about their immigration status than the reason officers were called in the first place.
When asked to clarify that his intentions with this program are not to profile Knox County residents Jones said, “absolutely not and never have and never will.”
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In their agreement with ICE, the Knox County Sheriff’s office agreed to selection candidates for the program who not only have knowledge of laws and experience supervising inmates, but people who show an ability to meet and deal with people of differing backgrounds and behaviors.
ICE said they will conduct an independent background check for each candidate and reserves the right to evaluate the candidate’s suitability to exercise immigration enforcement functions. They will also have continuous access to candidate’s disciplinary records.
More: Ready the full agreement