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287(g) stats: Most foreign-born inmates here illegally

LAWRENCEVILLE -- On Tuesday, the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department released crime statistics associated with the recently implemented 287(g) program, including charges against, and nationalities of, detainees.

As a direct result of the program, there are 996 charges pending against 464 defendants that deputies have screened and determined to be here illegally.

Prior to 287(g), which began on Nov. 16, 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had already placed 53 detainers on inmates at the Gwinnett County Jail, bringing the total number of immigration holds to 523.

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said statistics show that 62 percent of the jail's foreign-born population is here illegally.

According to those statistics, 285 of the 464 287(g) detainers have been placed on illegal immigrants from Mexico, far more than Honduras, 50, Guatemala, 37, and El Salvador, 25.

Other detainees are from Africa (4), Cuba (3) and Brazil (2). The remaining 58 detainers fall in the "other" category, comprised of countries such as Panama, India and Colombia.

The alleged crimes run the gamut, though no detainee is charged with homicide.

Charges include:

* 178 driver's license charges (though officials said in all but 61 of these, there are additional charges)

* 58 felony drug charges

* 15 aggravated assaults

* 13 sex crimes

* 45 batteries

* 23 robberies and burglaries

* 62 DUIs

Other charges include theft, city/county ordinance violations, traffic offenses and probation violations.

These numbers reflect what Sheriff Butch Conway has called an effective system for ridding Gwinnett County of illegal aliens who continue to break the law, while detractors have called it an excuse for racial profiling and human rights violations.

The Rev. Tracy Blagec, of Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, has staunchly opposed the program from the beginning and believes that 287(g) was intended to target "serious criminal offenses," not to deport immigrants for traffic offenses.

"Law enforcement seems to be continuing with business as usual, rounding up Latinos, predominantly, or other foreign-born looking individuals, via traffic stops, and then checking their status once they are in the jail," Blagec said.

Conway has said before that traffic offenses are serious.

"You've got people out there getting in wrecks and killing other people because they don't know the rules of the road," he said.