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Deputies finish immigration laws training

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Starting Monday, the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department will begin its limited enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The 287(g) program -- named after the section of immigration law that governs it -- has been in the works in Gwinnett since Sheriff Butch Conway applied for it in March 2008.

Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said deputies are returning this weekend from four weeks of training in Charleston, S.C.

"(The training) was related to the federal immigration laws, procedures and rules involved in processing aliens," Bourbonnais said in an e-mail.

Conway will hold a press conference Monday to discuss more details about the program and how it will be implemented in Gwinnett. He said previously that 18 deputies will be devoted to the program, which will allow deputies to check the immigration status of anyone booked into the jail. Deputies then, under the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, can place an immigration hold on anyone found to be in the country illegally, Conway said.

Sheriff's departments in Whitfield, Hall and Cobb counties, along with the Georgia Department of Public Safety, already participate in the program.

In Cobb County, illegal immigration activist D.A. King said Sheriff Neil Warren has reported about 7,000 illegal aliens to federal authorities.

"Foreign language newspapers and the ACLU regularly howl about illegals migrating out of Cobb because they now fear capture," King said. "That was exactly the intent."

For Conway, the numbers say it all. In January, a 26-day ICE campaign resulted in detainers being placed on 914 foreign-born inmates, 54 percent of whom had a criminal history, Conway said, with a "vast majority" of them having prior arrests Gwinnett.

Charges ranged from driving without a license and battery to serious felonies such as murder, rape, armed robbery and child molestation.

Sixty-eight percent of foreign-born inmates, according to Conway, are here illegally.

"Enforcement works," King said.

But the program is not without its detractors, who say immigration is a complex issue best addressed at the federal level, and that 287(g) will only increase racial profiling incidents.

"A program originally intended to have its enforcers focus on hard crime and serious criminal behavior in communities has instead been misused by law enforcement as an instrument of hatred and bigotry for intolerant Americans," said the Rev. Tracy L. Blagec of Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment

Blagec called the program a "piecemeal" and "ineffective" solution that tears apart families and communities.

King said the enforcement of immigration laws are not human rights violations.

"Illegal aliens should consider the consequences on their families before they commit the crime of illegal immigration, ID fraud and tax evasion," he said.