HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Opinion: Expand local immigration enforcement efforts, funding

In 2000, illegal alien Gonzalo Harrell-Gonzalez had multiple contacts with various local law enforcement agencies for traffic violations but was allowed to go on his way each time. On Father’s Day weekend that year, Billy Inman’s Woodstock family was permanently separated when Harrell-Gonzalez’s speeding car crashed into the rear of Inman’s vehicle stopped at a red light. Sixteen year-old Dustin died instantly. His mom Kathy suffered permanent and severe brain injury that put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Because they were both in comas after the horrific crash, Billy and Kathy Inman were unable to attend their only child’s funeral. This innocent and loving American family was permanently separated because an illegal alien was allowed into the U.S. and illegally given a job - and because local law enforcement did not detect or report his illegal immigration status to federal authorities.

Literally thousands of American families have suffered separations at the hands of illegal aliens.

The organized effort to end the 287(g) program — which allows local law enforcement officers to use federal databases to determine and report the immigration status of all foreign inmates who are booked into participating jails — would have us believe that the process somehow endangers public safety. The facts tell a very different story.

In a 26-day run-up to the Gwinnett County jail fully implementing the federal 287(g) program in 2010, 489 of the 914 inmates identified as illegal aliens had previous arrests. Some had been arrested and booked numerous times in the Gwinnett jail alone.

Of the 914 illegal aliens who were captured in Gwinnett for violations of Georgia law, charges included but were not limited to:

  • Murder (13)
  • Felony drug offense (154)
  • Rape (15)
  • Theft of motor vehicle (7)
  • Child molestation (23)
  • DUI (48)
  • Aggravated assault (38)
  • Felony probation violation (42)
  • Armed robbery (28)
  • Hit and run (6)
  • Kidnapping (11)
  • Homicide by vehicle (1)
  • Family violence battery (12)
  • Other felony offenses (45)
  • Burglary (17)
  • Misdemeanor probation violation (55)
  • Felony theft (34)
  • No driver’s license (226)

Only the most serious charges are listed for inmates with multiple charges. Source: Gwinnett County Sheriff office.

It helps to follow the debate on illegal immigration if one recognizes that there are essentially two sides to the issue – pro-enforcement and anti-enforcement.

At age 55, Billy Inman recently succumbed to heart failure, but readers who accept that removing any illegal aliens from Georgia somehow makes us all less safe or wastes public resources should ask Kathy Inman which side she favors.

The well-funded anti-enforcement lobby working to end 287(g) has taken a dangerous position that having apprehended an illegal alien for committing a “minor” offense, we should release him back onto American streets and wait to see if he commits a more serious crime before we even consider reporting him to federal immigration agents for possible deportation. In most “sanctuary cities” there is no threshold crime for reporting criminal aliens to the feds.

The enemies of 287(g) resort to offering up a dubious race-baiting argument that too many inmates who are subject to ICE detainers are described as having “dark” or “medium” complexion. It is worth noting that, according to the Migration Policy Institute, “Mexicans and Central Americans are estimated to account for roughly two-thirds (67 percent or 7.6 million) of the unauthorized immigrants in the United States as of 2012-16.”

Created by federal law in 1996, the program serves as a deterrent to crime. Gwinnett’s population has shown a steady increase, but the average daily jail population has decreased from 2,654 in 2010 when the program began to 2,094 today. At the estimated cost of $63.25 per day to house an inmate, this represents a significant savings to taxpayers.

According to the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia is home to more illegal aliens than Lawful Permanent Residents – commonly known as “green card” holders. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that Georgia ranks number seven in states with its illegal alien population — ahead of Arizona.

The Migration Policy Institute also says Gwinnett County has an estimated 72,000 illegal alien residents - nearly 8% of the county’s population.

“The concept that I should stop a program that deports illegal aliens who have committed crimes in our community defies logic” says Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway.

We agree.

The 287(g) tool is a proven public safety asset and we cannot honor immigrants who obey our immigration laws unless those laws are enforced.

The lifesaving 287(g) program should be protected, expanded and see an increase in Congressional funding.

D.A. King is president of the Marietta-based Dustin Inman Society.

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