Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 | 7:48 p.m.
Illegal immigrants who get into trouble with the law in Las Vegas will be referred to federal immigration enforcement officers — even if they aren't found guilty of any criminal offense — thanks to a new program being instituted by the city's police department.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced Wednesday a partnership between Immigration and Customs Enforcement that will implement a jail-based program focusing on identifying criminals who are illegally in the United States.
The effort is part of Section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions.
Individuals arrested into the Clark County Detention Center who report a foreign birth, a standard question when entering the system, will be referred to one of 10 specially trained correction officers. Officers will have access to the Federal Immigration Database, a system previously only authorized to ICE.
If correction officers find a question of illegal status, the case will be referred to ICE. Individuals will serve their local or state sentence before the case is seen before an immigration judge.
Depending of the level of the crime, the individual may be held in custody by ICE or released on a bond before the hearing.
“This program will assist Immigration in identifying persons with documentation concerns in our detention center so those cases can be handle according to procedures set up by ICE,” Sheriff Douglas Gillespie said. “We do not want to give criminals the opportunity to return to a life of local crime.”
The program officially begins later this month and will not be retroactive, although ICE is currently looking into some cases within Clark County Detention Center.
The program will not be in other city jails or in the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center.
Though Metro Police assured the program will not be “policing innocent people on the street,” individuals with documentation concerns who have been found not guilty will be turned over to ICE.
“A police officer had probable cause to believe that that individual committed a crime. Because of that probable cause, they were booked into the detention center and because they are, that triggers that ICE program,” Gillespie said of those cases.
Metro Police is the first department in Nevada to implement the partnership with ICE and one of 63 in the country.