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ICE to look for illegals at jail

LAWRENCEVILLE - Beginning Jan. 12, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees will spend 26 days at the Gwinnett County Jail screening all foreign nationals in an effort to identify and remove criminal aliens.

All inmates booked into the jail will be screened, regardless of their claim to citizenship. Those found to be here illegally will be the subjects of removal proceedings.

"As most people are aware, we are in the process of trying to get approval to begin the 287(g) program in Gwinnett," Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said. "This hopefully will bring us one step closer in getting the green light on that program and will give ICE an idea of the approximate numbers they would be receiving from our jail."

According to a news release, the 287(g) program would allow Gwinnett deputies, under the supervision of ICE agents, to place detainers on illegal immigrants booked into the jail. Those illegal immigrants would then be turned over to ICE for deportation proceedings.

Through a release, Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said Conway sent a letter to the assistant secretary of Homeland Security in March requesting to be a part of the program, seeking funding for 18 positions. She said the agency was concerned it might need additional agents because of the large number of foreign-born inmates booked into Gwinnett's facility.

Gwinnett is still waiting on approval, and Bourbannais said the surge operation will give ICE an idea of the numbers they can expect from Gwinnett's jail.

The program will only deal with illegal aliens who have been arrested for a crime and are booked into the county jail, the release said.