Sheriff's Department moving forward on 287(g)

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department is a little closer to beginning its 287(g) program, officials said.

Sheriff Butch Conway and department staff members met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials this week to discuss details of the program's Memorandum of Agreement.

The Sheriff's Department participated in a trial program in 2008, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE announced the partnership in July.

For Gwinnett, the agreement means that deputies can run an immigration check on anyone taken into custody by the Sheriff's Department or brought to the jail. If it is determined that a person is in the country illegally, he or she can be detained for ICE and possible deportation proceedings.

Conway said in July that he is pleased to be part of the program, citing a "tremendous problem with illegal aliens being arrested in Gwinnett," suspects he said often fail to show up for court, wasting county resources.

The program has also been met with criticism from groups such as Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment claiming it will only increase racial profiling incidents.

Proponents say it helps protect the public by giving law enforcement the tools to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens.

Conway said funding for Gwinnett's program was approved in last year's budget and would carry over this year.

There is no official start date, said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais, but the department is "doing everything we can to get the agreements signed and the program started as soon as possible."

Conway said it will be sooner rather than later.

"I feel we are moving along well and am looking forward to beginning this program soon," Conway said. "The meeting this week was very productive."