Immigration holds placed on more SoCal inmates
November 6, 2008 – 1:52PM
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
About 2,000 inmates in San Bernardino County were flagged for deportation in the last fiscal year, federal immigration officials said Thursday.
Across Southern California, more than 35,000 inmates are to be deported in the past year, up 12 percent from a year earlier.
U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement said the increase stems from programs that have federal agents train sheriff's personnel in how to determine an inmate's immigration status. Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties all have such programs.
Inside West Valley Detention Center, custody specialists screen all inmates and determine if they are criminal aliens eligible to be placed on a detainer for deportation, according to authorities.
“The program has been very effective in screening for criminal aliens,” said Cynthia Beavers, spokeswoman for the Sheriff 's Department. “The number of people placed on detainers keeps getting higher.”
Once the inmates are placed in a detainer, ICE agents determine if the inmates will see a deportation judge, Beavers said.
In the past, ICE agents visited the detention centers only a few times a month, which meant many criminal aliens slipped through the cracks.
From January to October 2008, custody specialists have placed 1,969 criminal aliens on deportation detainers, officials said.
Currently, West Valley Detention Center is the only detention center in San Bernardino County with in-house custody specialists.
ICE said on Thursday that a seven-countyarea spanning much of Southern California accounted for roughly 17 percent of the 221,000 immigration holds placed on inmates across the country during the fiscal year that ended in September.