COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- The Collier County Sheriff plans to renew a controversial immigration policy that allow some deputies to check the status of people they arrest.
The 287(g) program has been in place since 2007 and Sheriff Kevin Rambosk calls it a success. He says 3,900 people have been detained and 3,200 have been deported, some of them very violent criminals.
But local activists say the program has some undocumented immigrants living in fear, and they want it stopped.
Immokalee Dr. Juan Puerto says he sees patients with families torn apart and others who don't report crimes for fear of deportation. "It is breaking up families, a lot of the children, they are depressed, dejected, get into trouble at home as a result of 287g, when you take one of the parents out, they lose control," he says.
He believes it's because of the policy allowing some sheriff's deputies to check immigration status, known as 287(g).
"I'm not against deporting criminals, but I think there are many of them who are arrested who are not criminals, who are arrested just crossing the street, riding a bike, they ask you for papers," he says.
But Sheriff Kevin Rambosk says that shouldn't be the case. He says the 28 deputies trained under the program use a federal database to see if someone is in the country illegally, and that's only after they are arrested.
He says, "unless you are one of the trained officers who are predominantly in corrections, a field deputy is not going to be stopping anyone for their status if they are here legally or not."
Dr. Puerto and other community activists started a petition asking the sheriff not to renew the policy. The sheriff says he will look at it when it is presented to him, but plans to renew the program.
Dr. Puerto says, "what is his purpose for doing this? Is he getting money for this, for the people he arrests?"
The sheriff says, "what we see is an individual arrested for a crime against the community, and when we talk to our residents, they look at us and want us to make sure the streets are safe."
He says he has heard positive feedback from the community about the program, and there may be a lot of misinformation out there on what it is really about.
He expects the renewal application to arrive in October.
The sheriff also says they have outreach programs in the community to explain to people that they can report crimes and it will not have an effect on them even if they are illegal immigrants.
He also says the sheriff's office does not do the deporting, that decision is made by a judge.
We spoke to Vinny Angiolillo, who is challenging Sheriff Rambosk in the November. He does not support the policy.