CONWAY, SC (WBTW) - Some Horry County residents say the sheriff's office should not be part of a controversial federal program for enforcing immigration laws.
About a dozen people told the Horry County Sheriff and representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) why they don't want the county jail to stay in a program called 287(g).
"I can't see myself ever being brought in on a driver's license violation," said Dorothy Gilbert, who went to Wednesday's joint annual 287(g) steering committee meeting.
Some opposed to 287(g) said the program is unnecessary.
"Whether it's Horry County, or it's Conway, or it's the state of South Carolina, or it's the United States, it's still my tax dollar and I think it's being wasted," Judy Meusel said.
Three ICE-certified corrections officers at J. Reuben Long Detention Center check the immigration status of anyone brought to the jail that wasn't born in the U.S. Three more corrections officers are scheduled to be trained in the 287(g) process in 2019. It also allows the jail to share information with ICE agents.
Those against 287(g) say the program hurts families and targets minorities.
"The program becomes an extra added incentive to racially profile people," said Dameion Fowler with Grand Strand Action Together.
During Wednesday's meeting, ICE reps said the goal of 287(g) is to find anyone not in the country legally if they commit a crime.
"For 2018, 90 percent of all persons arrested by ICE either had a prior criminal conviction, a criminal arrest, or already had what's called a final order of removal," said Bryan Cox, the southern region communications director for ICE.
Sheriff Phillip Thompson says the program doesn't target immigrants outside of jail.
"We don't come in contact with anyone unless they're booked in this facility, charged with a criminal offense," Sheriff Thompson said.
ICE says only 2.2 percent of people booked at J. Reuben Long since 287(g) started were not U.S. citizens and screened.
The current agreement keeps the Horry County Sheriff's Office in the program until the end of June.
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