Police in South Carolina have flagged hundreds of illegal immigrants for deportation as part of a new federal program. Many law enforcement officials have called the program a success. Still, critics have said it opens the door to racial profiling.
The federal screening program has been used in Charleston, S.C.
Once a person is arrested and booked into jail for breaking a local or state law, specially trained officers act as immigration control agents and check that person's legal status. One detention center applied for the program 4 years ago, after a survey of foreign-born inmates.
"We discovered that there was 182 illegal aliens that had been booked into the jail on non-immigration charges," said Mitch Lucas, a jail administrator.
The inmates must be charged with breaking a state or local law before the program's process begins. However, several human rights advocate groups said the program could lead to racial profiling by police.
"In spite of the best intentions of law enforcement leadership, I think people will be stopped for fines or non major violations," said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It could be jay walking or not having a traffic signal on when one is turning and asked for their papers."
Police officers have said they are simply targeting people who break the law and they're not on the hunt for illegal immigrants.
"This program has nothing to do with who is selected to come to jail for arrest," Lucas said. "Until they are arrested, until they are in jail, we don't know that they exist."
The Latin Association of Charleston has also spoken out against the program, but Charleston police have claimed it has been a successful in pinpointing illegals.