Immigration enforcement program could be expanded in Georgia, Carolinas

Deputy P. Brown performs a search at the Gwinnett County Jail, which participates in the federal 287(g) immigration enforcement program.

The Trump administration is considering expanding a controversial federal immigration enforcement program to two additional counties in Georgia and one in each of the Carolinas, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Named after the federal law that authorizes it, the 287(g) program gives local law enforcement officials the power to question people about their legal status, serve arrest warrants, and detain and transport criminals for immigration violations. Four counties in Georgia – Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall and Whitfield – already participate.

RELATED: On the road with ICE in Georgia amid Trump’s crackdown

An Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter and photojournalist went on a ride along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Austell to give an intimate look at how they are doing their jobs amid the Trump administration's aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to identify the four counties that may join the program, citing his agency’s privacy rules.

“It is no secret that there are counties out there that have applied and that are interested in joining the program, and ICE will evaluate every county’s application on its individual merits and make a decision,” said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. “But the policy of ICE is we don’t discuss things that are deliberative in nature. If counties are approved, we will make a public announcement on that and speak at that point.”

Critics have repeatedly called on the government to shut down the 287(g) program nationwide, saying it distracts police from more important crime-fighting duties. Supporters say it is an effective way to crack down on illegal immigration.

RELATED: New Trump immigration orders ramp up enforcement

In an executive order he issued in January, President Donald Trump called for an expansion of the program. Last month, ICE announced 18 new 287(g) agreements across Texas, bringing the nationwide total to 60.

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