Immigration Database Program Underway

Immigration Database Program Underway

April 16, 2007 02:12 PM

The program designed to identify illegal workers in the Metro jail was underway Monday.

Davidson County jailers started working with federal immigration officials Monday morning. In the first four hours, the jail identified four inmates who were in the country illegally.

Once the legal process is finished, federal agents will take custody and remove them from Nashville.

After a more than a month of training Metro jail employees began identifying inmates who are in the country illegally.

Suspects' citizenship status is identified through the booking process.

Jailers take photographs and fingerprints, which are compared to those in a federal immigration database.

“What our officers are trained to do is either identify them through the system they are here illegally or interview them to find out if they're here legally or not,” John Ford with the Davidson County Sheriff's Department said.

The immigration crack down was largely the result of what happened to a Mt. Juliet couple last summer.

Sean and Donna Wilson died at the hands of a drunk driver, who was in the country illegally.

The driver, Gustavo Reyes Garcia had been arrested 14 times and but had avoided deportation.

“The fact it took two killed in our country, our state to make people realize, is a shame,” the accident victim's daughter Heather Steffck said last week in court.

Under the new program, inmates in the country illegally will serve their time and be handed over to the federal Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.

An ICE office is in the jail's booking department.

“Within 48 hours after they are identified and there screening process is done here, then ICE will come pick them up,” Ford said.

Based on what has happened in similar cities, Metro expected eight percent of the jail population will fall into this category.

ICE officers will take illegal workers back to their countries. In many cases, the inmate will make a trip back to the U.S. Mexican border.

One of those similar cities is Charlotte, North Carolina.

The sheriff's department in Charlotte, NC also instituted the federal database program and conducted some research on the first nine months of the program. The number of Hispanics arrested for DUI has dropped more than 25 percent. The sheriff's office in Charlotte reported the immigration crack down has impacted other crime as well. They said there had also been a drop in Hispanic gang-related crime since the beginning of the program.