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Reminder: Sheriff aids ICE deportation effort

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Multnomah County law agency trades conviction records for cash subsidies

KOIN NEWS 6 PHOTO - Sheriff Michael ReeseIn the past week, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office has loudly emphasized what it doesn't do to help federal jailers apprehend undocumented immigrants.

But the law enforcement agency does help the national government deport foreign nationals who are convicted in the criminal justice system. Prisoners qualify for one program after one felony or two misdemeanors.

MCSO provides inmate information, including names and sentencing records, as part of a U.S. program intended to subsidize the cost of housing convicted undocumented expats. Federal funding to MCSO through this program has ranged from $200,000 to $400,000 per year since 2011.

"Sheriffs are sharing information," explained David Olen Cross, a lawful immigration advocate based in Salem. "Everyone's saying they're not cooperating, yet they're getting money from it."

Known as SCAAP, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program directs federal money to enforcement agencies nationwide.

In fiscal year 2016, the Sheriff's Office sent 296 unique inmate records to the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The bureau determined that 118 prisoners were "ICE eligible," an acronym that refers to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Lt. Chad Gaidos, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, says a person's residency status is largely self-reported during intake procedures.

"The only reason we hold someone is because of some criminal nexus. It's not the result of solely an immigration detainer," he said. "(If convicted of) criminal charges or (following) a criminal arrest warrant that was issued by a federal judge, then in those areas the Sheriff's Office would work with ICE."

Immigration detainers allow police to hold an undocumented immigrant for up to 48 hours after their sentence expires, so ICE can arrive and take custody.

Unlike regular police, who require probable cause, ICE can detain someone merely because they suspect them of being an unlawful resident.

Funding for SCAAP fluctuated during the previous administration, dropping from $238 million in 2013 to $165 million in 2015, according to USA TODAY.

National news sources have speculated SCAAP could be withheld by President Trump, who has vowed to "end" sanctuary jurisdictions like Portland and Multnomah County.

"We're aware of what our federal funds are, (but) there really hasn't been any specific communication as to what the pulling of funding means," Lt. Gaidos said. "We're in the middle of our normal budget talks."