Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky and Sheriff Ted Mink are eyeing a federal program that would train sheriff’s deputies at the jail to identify illegal immigrants and begin paperwork to put them before an immigration judge.
Currently deputies have to call federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents if they suspect someone in the jail is in the country illegally. ICE officials are strapped for resources and can't always pickup the suspected illegal immigrant, so they sometimes bond out of jail and aren't seen again.
A federal program in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act trains local law enforcement officers in using federal databases to track the true identities of suspected illegal immigrants. It also allows them to start possible deportation paperwork, which requires ICE agents to retrieve the suspected illegal immigrant within a few days.
McCasky and Mink want to train the intake deputies at the Jeffco jail for the program. The federal government provides the training for free, but the deputies would have to go to Georgia, and the sheriff's office would have to pay for the travel and lodging. Mink would also have to fund overtime for other deputies to work in the jail while the training is going on.
"This is a serious issue in the U.S.," McCasky said. "The feds can't or won't do anything about it."
Mink said that ICE field agents in the Denver area are great to work with, but they don't have the resources to handle the workload.
McCasky said that if the program can be implemented in Jeffco, it will open up bed space for other criminals and save the county thousands in daily costs associated with inmates.
"Because the jail is full, we don't want a situation where we don't have the space, and judges make decisions on sentencing because we didn't have the space," McCasky said.
McCasky and Mink estimate the program would identify roughly 25 illegal immigrants per month and get them out of the jail faster. If those people ended up getting deported, it would be a felony for them to come back into the country improperly again.
It costs $62 per day per inmate for the county, and McCasky is banking on the program saving the county a lot of money.
He said his role in the plan is to put a placeholder into the 2009 budget to pay for the overtime Mink will need to have his deputies go through the training. There will be minimal additional costs, both men said, since the government will pay for the extra equipment and databases that will have to be installed in the jail.
Mink said that rather than fly his deputies to Georgia, he and other sheriffs from around the state will try to get the feds to conduct the training in Colorado. At a recent meeting of dozens of Colorado sheriffs, Mink said there was broad support for the program. If there is enough commitment from many Colorado sheriffs, the feds will likely bring the training to Colorado.
"This is a partnership," McCasky said. "(The deputies) are going to be an extension, in essence, of the federal government."
McCasky said he will formally propose the idea to his fellow commissioners soon, and expects them to support it.