Dakota County seeks immigration enforcement

Dakota County Sheriff's office aims to crack down on immigration at local level

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, NE - "We're looking for the best outcome for our community members because we don't want to have a community in which people are living in fear," Christina Topete said.

The fear she speaks of comes as the Dakota County Sheriff's Office applies to join a Trump Administration program aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration at the local level.

The office is one of  only 26 agencies nationwide seeking an agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deputize trained jailers to enforce immigration laws locally. Known as the 287(g) program, this program seeks to deputize and train jailers, so they can question and detain people arrested for other crimes.

The program appears to be so little-known that commanders with Siouxland's largest sheriff's office in Woodbury County told us they'd never heard of it.

"We were just reading about the immigration laws; it's pretty complicated sometimes. There's things you can and can't do. Well, this just helps us to understand that law better. That's basically all this is," Sheriff Kleinberg said.

While Sheriff Kleinberg explains his office's participation in this immigration effort as no big deal, community groups are raising red flags and signing an online petition to let officials know this is not an effort they can support - because it could drive a wedge between law enforcement and the people they serve. 

"It can hurt through the relationship that the officers have with the community," Topete said.

Their fears come from efforts that drew national attention by Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff who was pardoned by President Trump following overzealous efforts to roundup folks suspected of being in the country illegally.

Dakota County's sheriff tell us he doesn't have the manpower to hunt down illegal immigrants on the streets -- and contends the search for immigration violators won't go any further than within the walls of the jail, after someone's already been arrested for a criminal offense.

"The downside is the public thinking that somehow Dakota County sheriff is going to have some kind of immigration ban and round people up or pull people over because of their race or nationality -- that's ridiculous. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It has to do with people already in my jail," Sheriff Kleinberg said.

"I am worried about it as well as the team here at Unity in Action. We are worried about how it can affect the community and the people in it," Topete said.


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