Published: Oct 01, 2012 6:04 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 01, 2012 6:12 PM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- A group of Collier County community leaders delivered a letter to the sheriff's office today, asking Sheriff Kevin Rambosk not to renew a controversial immigration policy.

The group of more than 40 community leaders and activists say the 287g policy is hurting the community, and has many immigrants living in fear.

The policy allows 28 trained deputies access to a federal database, so they can check someone's immigration status only after they are arrested.

Representatives from the Redlands Christian Migrant Association say they get letters from children who say their families are torn apart because of this policy. "There's no need for this. Our families are not terrorists, they are not the kind of people that are going to cause malice in our community, they just want to be here and want to work, they want to be part of our community and the fear that has been brought on our community is outrageous, its horrendous," says Gloria Padilla.

The group says the policy is impacting non-violent offenders as well as criminals.

"You can never underestimate the power of rumor, the power of one example, so one person gets picked up for driving without a license and put in proceedings and deported and word spreads around the community," says Alex Vernon, who works with immigrant rights at Ave Maria Law School.

He adds, "(the sheriff) is responsible for community policing in Collier County so he's got to take responsibility for the effects this kind of program is gonna have on the ground."

The sheriff released a statement this afternoon that says he is committed to the policy.

It said in part, "We have implemented this program sensibly and have employed best practices to ensure that it is administered fairly and in accordance with the law." 

The group of opponents also started a petition, which now has more than 1200 signatures.

The 287g program started in Collier County in 2007.