Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and other police departments in Mississippi have been working with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) since 2012 to remove people that illegally immigrate to the United States.
In 2018, ICE removed an average of 65 people per month from Mississippi through the Secure Communities Program.
There have been 56 removals in Lafayette County since 2012: one female and 55 males. There have been two removals in 2019.
ICE has been using the Secure Communities Program in Lafayette County to detain individuals suspected of illegally entering the U.S. The program allows local jails to detain inmates for their original offense and if they appear to have illegally immigrated.
Through the program, correctional facilities across the country send booking data on inmates to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If an individual shows up in the system as possibly unauthorized, ICE may issue a detainer on them, take custody of them and remove them. ICE uses the program to work with 3,181 jurisdictions across the United States.
“It is ICE, and not the state or local law enforcement agency, that determines what immigration enforcement action, if any, is appropriate,” the official website for the program says.
The majority of people detained in Lafayette County by ICE are held after being arrested for minor incidents such as driving under the influence and other traffic offenses, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
TRAC, at Syracuse University, gathers, organizes, researches and distributes data from a wide range of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Oxford Police Captain Hildon Sessums said in July he was unfamiliar with the program, and that all law enforcement in Lafayette County transport people to the Lafayette County Detention Center.
Constable Jody Mayfield also said he was unfamiliar with the program in an interview in July.
Though he was unfamiliar with the program, Mayfield said that individuals who are detained by ICE are not treated differently than other detainees.
“If they’re detained here, they’re treated just like any other inmate,” Mayfield said. “They’re put in general population like everybody else. Then whenever ICE comes and picks them up, I don’t know what happens to them.”
In 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13768, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which forced sanctuary jurisdictions and sanctuary cities to comply with ICE through programs like Secure Communities.
Forced compliance of sanctuary cities has caused an increase in removals under the Secure Communities Program nationally, but removals in Lafayette County have dropped this year.
According to data from TRAC, there were 16 removals in Lafayette County in 2017 and 16 in 2018.
Lafayette County ranks 12th in number of removals under the Secure Communities Program in Mississippi, with 56, according to TRAC. Adams County has had the most removals since 2012, with 2,051.