Halting illegal immigration

YORK -- The York County Sheriff's Office is the first agency in the state to use a new high-tech program aimed at combating illegal immigration by turning deportation authority over to local officals.

The endeavor, dubbed the 287-G program, is a partnership between the Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, that allows officials to submit suspected illegal immigrants' fingerprints and pictures to a system called IDENT.

The system will immediately let law enforcement know if someone is wanted by immigration and customs enforcement, officials said.

"It will keep illegal immigrants off your streets and help our officers as well," Felicia Skinner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said during a press conference held Thursday at Moss Justice Center in York.

The Sheriff's Office started using the 287-G program Oct. 8, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said. Five officers completed a four-week training course in Florida. Four others will be trained later.

Thirty-four agencies use the program nationwide, including Mecklenburg County, Bryant said. Beaufort County has applied for the program. Locally, officials have interviewed 84 people to determine their legal status in the United States, he said.

"Of the 84, a total of 62 have been determined to be here illegally and have been placed in removal/deportation proceedings," Bryant said. "Of those, 44 have already left our facility and have been taken into custody by ICE."

Before the 287-G program, no mechanism was in place to gauge whether someone was living illegally in the country, Officer Robert Guzman said.

"Anyone can give you a name that's false," Guzman said. "It happens all the time."

There are an average of 23 illegal immigrants in the county detention center each week, Bryant said.

"I have no intention of causing our citizens in York County heartache," Bryant said. "If they come in this county (illegally), violate the law and come to our facility, we're going to deport them."