BY CLARE MARIE CELANO
Kim Guadagno, one of three candidates running for the position of Monmouth County sheriff, is calling for the implementation of a federal program known as 287(g) of the Immigration Reform Act of 1996.
According to Guadagno, who is a former state and federal prosecutor, implementing 287(g) would ensure safer communities by allowing law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone who is already incarcerated in the Monmouth County jail, Freehold Township, before the inmate is released.
Guadagno said that if she is elected sheriff in November, she would require corrections officers to implement provision 287(g). Under this program, corrections officers working with federal authorities gain necessary resources and authority to immediately determine the immigration status of an inmate.
The federal program allows for the training of state and local law enforcement officials by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in order to enforce immigration laws.
“It’s time to get serious about protecting the families and residents of Monmouth County,” Guadagno said in a press release. “The implementation of this program will greatly increase the protection of Monmouth County families from potential terrorists like the Fort Dix Six.”
Guadagno was referring to six men who have been charged in connection with a plot to attack soldiers at New Jersey’s Fort Dix. She said the suspects had previous involvement with law enforcement authorities and noted that with appropriate safeguards in place they could have been transferred to federal custody or deported well before the Fort Dix plot evolved.
According to Guadagno, if 287(g) is employed, an “inmate’s immigration status is immediately checked and potential terrorists will immediately come to the attention of federal authorities.”
“This is a program the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office will employ when I am sheriff,” she said. “Potential terrorists like the Fort Dix Six who are unlawfully in the United States will immediately be brought to the attention of federal authorities.”
Guadagno, a Republican, is one of three candidates seeking the office of sheriff. The other candidates are Democrat Jack Hill and independent Patricia Hopkins.
In an interview with Greater Media Newspapers, Hill, who is the chief of police in Belmar, said the press release issued by Guadagno regarding the 287(g) program “does not define a plan for ensuring the safety and security of Monmouth County residents, but is pure political rhetoric.”
Hill said the Immigration Reform Act of 1996 allows jurisdictions to apply for entry into a program which has ICE officers training police officers and corrections personnel in immigration enforcement procedure in order to identify illegal immigrants and turn them over to ICE for deportation.
“Part of the program does allow, with permission, access to the ICE database, but the safety and security issues in Monmouth County require a comprehensive plan, not political rhetoric,” Hill said. “A comprehensive plan would address the sheriff’s office involvement in gang violence, drug dealing and violence in schools, and yes, immigration issues, which are legislated by the federal government.”
Hill said that in his experience, he believes research is a part of comprehensive planning to ensure the commitments and benefits of participation are cost effective and will produce desired results.
“For example, if my opponent’s press release is accurate, why aren’t the other 20 counties in New Jersey participating? It would seem that since 1996, someone must have applied for this program from New Jersey or are there program requirements that would make participation untenable or undesirable?” he said.
Hill explained that at the present time corrections personnel conduct a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) check of all inmates in which ICE as well as every other law enforcement agency in the country inputs information regarding detention and warrants.
He said he is developing a comprehensive plan to be revealed later in the campaign.
“I know from experience that, in an analogous example, you cannot put a Band-Aid on a severed artery, you must have a surgical plan to stop the bleeding, repair the artery and ensure proper healing and rehabilitation,” Hill said.
Hill said the plan he is developing will include interagency, federal, state, county and local partnerships in coordinated programs and data sharing to address the serious issues of the residents of Monmouth County.
“They deserve a comprehensive plan and solutions, not more political smoke and mirrors,” he said.
Hopkins, of Freehold Township, told Greater Media Newspapers that although it would be worthwhile to investigate the 287(g) provision, she does not believe the program would help to ensure the safety and security of county residents.
“Implementing this program is a minor part of a much larger issue. The true issue is the safety and security of all the communities involved,” Hopkins said. “As sheriff, I would not wait for a person to be an inmate to find out if they were a threat to our national, state and local security. I think it is irresponsible to concentrate solely on the information of the 287(g) provision to ensure our safety.
“We can take a more comprehensive approach to combating dangerous threats and we can concentrate on not giving terrorists the time to plan an attack or the room to escape before they can be identified. I would put proactive protocol in place in order to guard against the possibility of an attack before it occurs,” she said.
Hopkins said it is her intention to do this in a way that shows “the ultimate respect for the civil rights of legitimate citizens.”
Regarding 287(g), Hopkins said the department really has no place to house detainees. In the interim, housing detainees would cost taxpayers money for shelter, food, and medical care.
“I don’t see that this program is good for us and I don’t think it will ensure any safety procedures that we don’t have in place already,” she said.
Hopkins also mentioned that the program would have an impact on the manpower of the sheriff’s department and could require additional officers to be hired.
If enacted, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office would become the first county in New Jersey to implement the 287(g) program for correctional officers.
According to Guadagno’s press release, the 287(g) program has been adopted in a number of states with successful results. In Alabama, the program enabled troopers to identify and convict 27 individuals for using fraudulent documents in an attempt to obtain drivers licenses, according to the press release. Thirteen individuals were convicted of state charges, including narcotics violations. The program also uncovered a registered sex offender who was subsequently deported, Guadagno said.
The current Monmouth County sheriff, Republican Joseph Oxley, is not seeking re-election to the position he has held since January 1996. The sheriff’s office is Monmouth County’s largest law enforcement agency with more than 700 employees who serve in the Law Enforcement Division, the Monmouth County jail, the Monmouth County Youth Detention Center, the Civil Division and the Public Safety and 911 Emergency Dispatch Center.