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Sheriff Bailey, Congresswoman Myrick defend deportation program

In the last two weeks Duke University and the Government Accountability Office in Washington released reports criticizing the immigration program known as 287g. They say it is being used to nab petty criminals for things like traffic violations rather than serious crimes. They also say it fuels a fear of racial profiling among Hispanics. Congresswoman Sue Myrick sees a deeper meaning in the Washington report. "I think it was unfair and I think it was biased in the way it did it," Myrick said Monday at a press conference at the Mecklenburg County Jail. "And the administration, I'm concerned, is laying the groundwork frankly to gut the funding for the 287g program. And this to me says we are just giving up the fight on illegal immigration, period." Mecklenburg County was one of the earliest to participate in 287g in 2006. The program gives sheriff's deputies the ability to determine the legal status of immigrants in the county jail. So far, Mecklenburg County has processed about 6,000 illegal immigrants for deportation. A majority were accused of misdemeanors and traffic violations. Bailey says most were arrested only after failing to appear in court on a previous citation. He insists his deputies do not check for immigration status until a person has been arrested for another offense. If federal authorities wanted the program to focus only on serious criminals, Bailey says they never said so. "It says, that if they are arrested then we should check' em. And that's exactly what we do. There's no delineation about the type of crime that they're brought into," he said. Both reports place much of the blame for problems with 287g on inadequate communication and oversight by federal immigration authorities. Still, Bailey maintains Mecklenburg County is safer because of it. He says it's resulted in the deportation of more than 500 accused felons.