When Steuart Pittman pledged to “kiss” 287(g) “goodbye,” the county head of detention facilities took that as an order, ending the program less than 24 hours after the new county executive gave his inauguration speech.
Detention Facilities Superintendent Terry Kokolis ended the immigration program on Dec. 4 at Pittman’s “direction,” according to an email from Cpt. Keith Quaine, detention facilities security administrator.
Pittman’s office said the superintendent took “initiative” after the speech. It was not a direct order.
Detention officers were told to immediately stop processing incoming inmates under the program. The county began processing inmates under the 287(g) program in December 2017, partnering with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement to find immigration violations.
The email does not make a reference to how Pittman’s direction was given.
“As directed by CE Pittman, Detention Officers trained for the program are to cease processing any new arrivals under the 287(g) protocols effective immediately,” Quaine wrote in the email. “The County will formally advise Homeland Security by letter of the our intent to end the program.”
Pittman has been a critic of the program, saying it doesn’t change how the county handles violent criminals while leading to possible deportation of low-level offenders.
Counties that partner with the program train detention officers to screen inmates as they come into local jails. Anne Arundel County screened 180 inmates from December 2017 to November. Of those screened, 64 received ICE detainers with 36 of them committing violent crimes ranging from murder to burglary. The rest committed non-violent offenses such as driving without a license, DUI or credit card fraud.
Inmates who did not receive detainers were listed not eligible for various reasons, such as being naturalized citizens. Anne Arundel County had an average of 733 inmates daily during fiscal 2017, according to Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services data. The county has the capacity to hold 1,175 inmates.
Pittman pledged to review the program before ending it. He has asked for inmate screening data.
The memo between ICE and the county requires a letter to officially end the 287(g) partnership. Anne Arundel County is still listed as having a program on ICE’s website. Pittman administration officials declined to say if the letter had been sent.
Pittman plans to meet with Kokolis this week to discuss the program and the county contract to house people awaiting deportation under an ICE order.
“The superintendent heard the county executive’s inaugural speech and took the initiative to stop new screenings,” said Brandi Francis, Pittman’s spokeswoman. “The county executive emailed the superintendent on Dec 12 to request statistics about the impact of the program. “
Kokolis has not responded to requests for comment, and his office has declined to discuss the 287(g) program.
Members of the Anne Arundel County Council were not aware the program had been ended so abruptly. Council Chairman Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, said he didn’t support the 287(g) program but hoped he would get the “details” on its ending.
Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, said the abrupt ending of the program is counter to Pittman’s campaign pledges.
“Something like that cuts against the transparency he campaigned upon,” Haire said.
Councilwomen Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, and Allison Pickard, D-Millersville both declined to comment. Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan-Rodvien did not immediately return a request for comment.
Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, said he would take Pittman at his word that the superintendent ended the program.
“If Mr. Kokolis did this without authorization, we should look into that,” Volke said.
ICE partners with 78 local governments through the 287(g) program across 20 states in jail enforcement agreements. Those governments screen inmates who are held in local detention facilities.
That data is submitted to ICE, which decides whether to lodge a detainer against the inmate. Detainers are requests by ICE to hold a detainee an extended 48 hours while the federal government decides whether to pick up the inmate.
Supporters of the program argue it is an effective tool for finding undocumented and immigration law violations within prison populations.
Critics say it doesn’t make the county any safer and punishes low-level offenders who are deported.
ICE declined to comment about changes to the county’s 287(g) program but did offer a statement on the program itself.
“The goal of 287g is to enhance public safety by identifying aliens, lodging immigration detainers, and initiating removal proceedings by issuing charging documents on potentially deportable criminal aliens and other priority individuals who’ve been booked into the jail facility,” said Justine Whelan, an ICE spokeswoman.
The county also has a separate agreement with ICE to house immigration detainees in a long-vacant section of the Ordnance Road Correction Center. ICE agreed to pay the county a minimum of $1.7 million a year for use of 130 beds.
Pittman has floated the idea of ending that contract and using those beds for mental health patients.