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Immigration policy expert says McLean County Sheriff practices are standard

Thu, 02 Aug 2012 13:49:03 CDT
By: Charlie Schlenker

An immigration scholar says McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery is doing nothing unusual in agreeing to hold undocumented immigrants at the request of federal authorities.

"Standard practice in most parts of the country."

Doris Meissner is a former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner and fellow at the non-profit non partisan Migration Policy Institute. Meissner says most law enforcement officials in the U-S use the federal database the same way Sheriff Emery does. An advocacy group, Latinos United for Change, has been protesting Sheriff Emery's practice, saying it tears families apart as people are arrested for driving while immigrant. Meissner says, though that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has in recent years focused on serious offenders.

"They have been moving away from detaining people with clean records. They do continue to have an interest in people who have had multiple driving violations

Jail records examined by WGLT show 13% of undocumented immigrants detained for deportation at the jail in Mclean County had only minor traffic offenses from May of 2011 to June of this year. But, most of that small percent also had repeated instances of driving without a license or insurance.

"A routine travel stop or a first offense or a low level misdemeanor by and large is not the kind of a case where ICE would actually ask for detention."

Jail officials say they also believe federal authorities ask for holds only about half the time deputies use the database. Meissner says Emery and Latinos United for Change have naturally conflicting priorities.

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