A pilot program that puts two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on patrol with Escondido gang officers has been extended at least five months because it seems to be working, Escondido police and ICE officials said this week.

ICE is evaluating the 4-month-old program periodically to determine whether it is efficient to have two full-time federal agents working in Escondido looking for illegal immigrants with criminal records, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.
So far, their work has been fruitful, she said.

“Patrolling with police is a smart way for us to be able to identify and arrest individuals who have criminal convictions and are deportable,” Mack said.

Since the partnership was launched in May, it has yielded 146 arrests, Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter said.
Mack said the program has no scheduled end date, but it will be evaluated again in five months.

If it’s deemed a success, ICE may approach other local police departments, Mack said. In Escondido, ICE proposed the pilot program to police Chief Jim Maher, who accepted.

Critics, including Escondido Councilwoman Olga Diaz and several North County civil rights groups, have said the partnership spreads fear in Escondido’s immigrant community, deterring people from reporting crime because they are afraid of being scrutinized for an immigration violation.

Carter this week reiterated a position that Chief Maher has often stated: Law-abiding people whose only violation is being in the country illegally have nothing to fear from Escondido police.

“If you’re not doing anything illegal, you don’t have anything to worry about,” Carter said.

The North County Times examined five cases from one week this month to illustrate some of the arrests that Escondido police and ICE have been making together.

Source: Sarah Gordon North County Times

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