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Police say bookings of illegals decreased

LAWRENCEVILLE -- According to figures released Wednesday, the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department has placed 286 immigration holds on inmates since implementing the 287(g) program on Nov. 16.

Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said that of the jail's 809 foreign-born inmates, 498 -- 62 percent -- are in the country illegally.

The jail's total population was 2,487 Wednesday.

The 212 immigration holds that weren't a direct result of 287(g), Bourbonnais said, had already been placed on inmates before the program began.

The most recent arrests of illegal immigrants are for crimes ranging from traffic and drug charges to aggravated assault and rape, Bourbonnais said.

Records show those immigrants hail from countries such as Africa, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama, among others.

Sheriff Butch Conway said he has already seen a decrease in foreign-born bookings from 2008, when 1,929 aliens were jailed between Nov. 16 and Dec. 30. In 2009, he said, that number has fallen to 1,307, a decrease of 622 inmates.

Bourbonnais said Conway believes the decrease is a direct result of 287(g).

"It is possible they are being more cautious about being arrested because of the program or they are leaving the area," Bourbonnais said.

"The 287(g) program is working like we thought it would," Conway said. "We expected after a period of time to see our foreign-born booking numbers decrease, but this is much sooner than even we expected."

While pleased with the results so far, Conway stressed that the program is still young.

Before it was implemented, he said, 30 experienced Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents oversaw the department's criminal alien program.

Now, 18 deputies are still learning 287(g) as they go.

"I am pleased to say we are now screening 100 percent of our population," Conway said.