For the most part, they bear addresses in Calhoun, Cartersville, Summerville, Trion and Rome, which are county seats and towns in Gordon, Bartow, Chattooga and Floyd counties.
But, if they don’t live in Whitfield County, why are they brought to the Whitfield County jail?
ICE spokesman Temple Black from the New Orleans office said the local jail is an “approved ICE detention facility” where ICE “occasionally” houses detainees for short periods of under 72 hours.
Black was evasive when asked if the arrests could be characterized as an immigration “sweep,” but said: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement routinely conducts targeted enforcement operations in the area, with a focus on apprehending criminal aliens.”
Capt. Wes Lynch of the sheriff’s office said the department’s 287g program — which helps ICE-trained county officers identify inmates who are in the country illegally and have criminal backgrounds — is not directly related to the arrests ICE is making in the region.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with our 287g program here,” he said. “We are not authorized by our MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) to quote on anything ICE is doing, but (the detainees) are here one to three nights and then they come get them two or three times a week.”
Lynch said the sheriff’s office receives between $5,000 to $6,000 per month to house the ICE detainees.
“It’s not increasing our budget,” he said. “It’s actually helping with things.
Local officials also can’t say whether all ICE detainees taken from the jail or deported or not — it’s out of their hands once ICE arrives to transport them to a holding facility in Atlanta. Lynch said ICE uses different “divisions” inside the agency, one for arrests and the other for picking up detainees, to keep the enforcement operation fluid and not bogged down with arrest-to-deportation responsibilities.
In a speech on immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, earlier this year, President Barack Obama said his administration has focused on deporting illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.
“Beyond the border, we’re going after employers who knowingly exploit people and break the law,” Obama said in the speech on May 10. “And we are deporting those who are here illegally. And that’s a tough issue. It’s a source of controversy.”
Lynch could only say that immigration enforcement efforts geared toward criminal aliens appear to be on the increase across the country.
As to what’s going on in Northwest Georgia, he replied, “You will probably have to ask Atlanta ICE about that.”
Barbara Gonzalez, press secretary for ICE, referred all regional questions to Black.