State Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, said she supports a program that helps sheriff's deputies work on immigration, but criticized the cost to the state at a debate today.
What she said: "The 287(g) program is an unfunded federal mandate. Immigration is a federal issue. It is not a state issue."
The background: Since 1996, the federal government has offered a pilot program for sheriff’s deputies to investigate illegal immigration.
Though immigration enforcement is typically handled by the federal government, the goal of the 287(g) program is to start deportation proceedings on illegal immigrants who are arrested for crimes like drunk driving and other non-immigration related offenses.
In North Carolina, a handful of local sheriff's offices, including Wake County, have signed up for the program, which has been promoted by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
The federal government pays for the cost of training deputies in immigration enforcement and grants sheriff's offices access to immigration records.
In 2007, the state legislature gave the N.C. Sheriffs' Association $750,000 to pay for additional support for the 287(g) program. Hagan, as a leader on the Senate budget committee, was instrumental in getting that funding in the state budget, according to her campaign.
This year's proposed state budget includes an increase to $1 million, although the association did not spend its entire allocation last year.
The Sheriffs' Association is a private professional organization that provides training and support services and lobbies on behalf of the state's 100 sheriffs.
Although Hagan supports enrolling all 100 North Carolina counties in the 287(g) program, her campaign argued that the federal government should pay for immigration enforcement, not the states.
"Immigration is a federal issue — the onus is on the federal government to find a solution that will be implemented across all 50 states instead of a few select counties," Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said in an e-mail.
Is the claim true? No. The 287(g) program is voluntary, so it is not a federal mandate.