Seven counties participating in a program designed to flag illegal immigrants in county jails have flagged for deportation or removal proceedings more than 3,100 people since January.
That figure represents 70 percent of the 4,500 prisoners interviewed in the seven jails that are participating in a federal program designed to allow county and local officials to help enforce federal immigration laws, said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel of the N.C. Sheriffs' Association.
Caldwell's gave the figures for the seven counties as part of a presentation to a legislative oversight committee on crime and corrections.
Under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996, local law enforcement agencies can be granted authority to handle immigration. The seven counties participating in the program are Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Wake.
On Jan. 1, a law went into effect requiring jail operators to try to determine the residency status of anyone arrested for impaired driving or a felony. But the counties participaing in the federal partnership have much greater access to federal immigration resources.
More after the jump.
Correction: Post and headline have been updated to reflect that it's the federal partnership, not the state law, that most directly led to the removal proceedings.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, jailers in those seven counties interviewed 4,511 people about their residency status, according to statistics presented by the Sheriffs' Association.
Of those 3,182 were placed in deportation proceedings. Another 177 had immigration detainers against them and were were likely headed toward deportation proceedings.
The Sheriffs' Association received state money to help counties participate in the federal program. Caldwell was reviewing on the organization's activities for the legislative oversight committee.
State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Carrboro Democrat, asked whether the law had encouraged racial profiling.
Caldwell said he doesn't believe the law encourages profiling, but it's impossible to say it's never happened.
"I can't make that commitment to you of all the thousands of people who are being interviewed across the state," Caldwell said. "We condemn it and don't condone it."
Update: Post now includes more complete comments from Caldwell.