Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sheriff Hall's Annual 287(g) Snow Job

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 3:19 PM

It's budgetary hearing season in Metro government, and that means media outlets are reporting on various cuts and belt-tightenings faced by city departments.

FOX 17's intrepid reporter, Sky Arnold, dusted off an old story about the Davidson County Sheriff Office's controversial 287(g) program and made it his own.

For nearly 90 seconds, Arnold says that the federal program that enables the DSCO to actively police immigrant communities, slap its members (such as pregnant women and overachieving high school students) with paltry offenses like traffic citations and deport them to their countries of origin is working for taxpayers because the sheriff said so.

In doing so, Arnold perpetuates the myth that the program actually saves taxpayers money because all of those deported illegal aliens aren't clogging up the county jail.

Inside the Davidson County jail something is missing.

1,100 beds are empty because there are no inmates to put there.

"It's not only the fact we're seeing empty beds we know we're having an impact on the community from a public safety perspective," said Sheriff Daron Hall.

Hall believes the reason for the empty beds is a controversial program known as 287-G.

It allows the Sheriffs Department to identify and turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

The program has been in operations for 5 years in Davidson County.

Hall says it's the only explanation for the lack of inmates.

"We've looked at other jurisdictions that do not have 287-G to see what the impact has been and it's nowhere near what we're seeing in reductions, so we know it has a significant part of that," said Hall.

Hall made those comments after budget hearings Monday morning where he said his department will once again come in on budget.

But as they used to say in olden times, "Where's the beef?"

Instead of investigating whether or not these claims are true by combing through documents and other boring journalistic work, Arnold instead filed a banal "he said, she said" piece that fails to realize that correlation doesn't imply causation — just because A happens doesn't mean it's the reason for B — and in so doing regurgitates Hall's annual PR push.

When asked if the sheriff's office could provide any data to support these claims, DSCO communications director Karla Weikal offered the following (bold emphasis Pith's): "Bed space has significantly increased since we began participation in 287(g) and the percentage of illegal aliens being arrested and brought to jail has decreased by 75 percent. We believe the program is a contributing factor to available bed space. The savings is in staffing because we have been able to completely close one facility and shut down units in other facilities."

For the past week, Pith has waited on DSCO to provide causal data. We've yet to hear from them.

But for sake of argument let's assume that this correlation did imply causation. Arnold's lazy and cynical exploitation of the angry white taxpayer meme that drives a lot of bunk journalism in the wake of the federal deficit zeitgeist excuses (or at least overlooks) 287(g)'s darker side. But hey, if the program can put a few extra bucks in Joe Blow's pocket so he can pay his Final Four bar tab, who cares?

The matter, of course, is that despite Arnold's dithering narrative, 287(g) ain't free.

Take, for example, this report by the National Council of La Raza:

When the 287(g) MOA was signed between ICE and the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in January 2007, the agreement authorized a maximum of 12 nominated, trained, and certified DCSO personnel to perform certain immigration functions* at an estimated cost of $683,000 per year to the county. In addition to paying for the cross-designated officer salaries, DCSO also experienced unreimbursed immigration detention costs, as they would bear the full cost of the first 48 hours of detention before ICE takes custody of the inmate. According to the Intergovernmental Service Agreement between ICE and DCSO, the per diem detention cost per detainee is $61. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) estimates that the total unreimbursed detention cost for the first two months of the program was $366,000, since more than 3,000 immigrants were processed for deportation during this period. When combined with officer salaries, the preliminary costs of the Davidson County 287(g) program exceeded $1 million.

Freedom, apparently, is far from free.

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