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Shift in federal immigration priorities could "slow down" controversial KCSO 287(g) program

Federal immigration officers told the Knox County Sheriff's Office to "stand down" the 287(g) program, except for people in specific circumstances.
Credit: Cole Sullivan

After President Trump was elected out of office and Joe Biden took over as the U.S. President, officials said there has been a shift in federal immigration priorities.

That shift can make a difference in how the Knox County Sheriff's Office continues its controversial 287(g) program. As of Inauguration Day, federal immigration officials told the office to "stand down" the program except for three situations:

  • If the immigrant poses a national security risk
  • If they are accused of violent crimes
  • If they re-entered the U.S. after being deported before

Officials said that the changes could slow down the program, but will not change how it is applied. They also said that the Knox County Sheriff's Office would still report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they arrest someone who doesn't have proper documentation.

Most people in the program, 84.58%, are charged with misdemeanors and will no longer face a 48-hour hold from ICE because of the new restrictions. However, the information will still be reported to ICE, officials said.

Most of the immigrants arrested in Knox County are also nonviolent, according to research from the University of Tennessee — 80.95%.

"It won't make much of a difference in my view," said Randy Nichols, who works with KCSO.

Through the 287(g) program, state and local police officers collaborate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to enter into written agreements with police departments and to deputize selected officers so that they can perform the functions of federal immigration agents.


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