GOVERNOR FLETCHER TAKES ACTION TO REMOVE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WHO COMMIT CRIMES IN KENTUCKY, ENSURES THAT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT RECEIVING TAX-SUPPORTED BENEFITS INTENDED FOR LEGAL RESIDENTS
‘Kentucky will not be a safe haven for illegal immigrants who commit felonies’
FRANKFORT, Ky. – In a continuing effort to protect the public, Governor Ernie Fletcher has notified federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials that Kentucky wants authority to verify the immigration status of foreign-born felons in Kentucky prisons.
Governor Fletcher made the request in a letter dated September 14 to ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers. The letter proposes that Kentucky be allowed to participate in a detention and removal program under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Currently, there are more than 460 foreign-born offenders either incarcerated in Kentucky prisons or in the community on supervised release. All of these persons are convicted felons and many are illegal aliens. Although all of these convicted felons are subject to deportation, only 82 of them have an ICE detainer lodged against them. Without a change in policy, a significant number of illegal aliens who have been convicted of felonies will be released from Kentucky state correctional facilities.
“Kentucky will not be a safe haven for illegal immigrants who commit felonies,” the Governor said. “This initiative is an attempt to prevent illegal immigrants who have been convicted and detained on felony charges from being released back into the community.”
The proposed 287(g) program is a continuation of ongoing efforts by the Fletcher Administration to address problems associated with illegal immigration.
In July 2006, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) took action to strengthen the citizenship verification process for individuals applying for public assistance. In August 2007, CHFS strengthened its regulation governing eligibility for the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program to ensure the income of illegal immigrants is counted when an application for benefits is made, and to ensure that illegal immigrants are not improperly receiving benefits meant for taxpaying citizens. And from July 8, 2006 through the present, 1,177 soldiers and airmen from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard have been deployed as part of Operation Jump Start to assist the U.S. government in its efforts to strengthen border security.
Under the new initiative, ICE will provide four weeks of training to at least five (5) employees of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Once trained, these corrections officers will be certified to perform immigration enforcement functions, including the identification and detention of foreign-born criminals and immigration violators. Upon completion of their sentences, these immigration violators will be reported to ICE for processing. ICE then will have 48 hours to remove the inmate or reimburse the state for housing the inmate during the deportation process. The program will be implemented with existing staff within the Department of Corrections.
Both state and federal leaders applauded the Governor’s action, which is the first of two phases.
“I'm so pleased the Governor is has taken steps to implement the 287(g) program in our state’s prison system,” said state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville). “At a time when national security has to be a priority, this represents a good first step in getting convicted felons of unknown origins off our streets.”
Kentucky’s congressional delegation also endorsed the Governor’s request. In a letter to ICE, the federal lawmakers wrote, “we agree with Governor Fletcher that the status quo presents an unacceptable public safety risk for our citizens. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to approve the proposed 287(g) partnership with the Kentucky Department of Corrections to enhance the effectiveness of ICE officers already in the Commonwealth.”
Finally, the Governor has partnered with the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), to pursue a second phase initiative, which would eventually expand the 287(g) program to county and regional jails.
Specifically, the Senator will sponsor legislation to establish a 287(g) enforcement division within the Department of Corrections staffed with 287(g) certified officers whose mission will be to provide regional, “24-7,” on-call assistance to jailers and AOC pretrial services personnel to identify and obtain an ICE detainer for any illegal alien arrested and booked into a county or regional detention facility. The legislation will also authorize and direct the Department of Corrections to transport ICE-detained inmates from jails to facilities approved to incarcerate federal prisoners with available bed space. When implemented, this legislation will allow any local jail to request state assistance to promptly determine if any arrestee, misdemeanant or person incarcerated in that detention facility is an illegal alien, obtain an ICE detainer for that person and transport him or her to a federally-approved facility for processing.
“We will have legislation ready to be filed during the 2008 session of the General Assembly,” said Sen. Stivers.