Gaston County Sheriff continues to support controversial immigration program

Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger says he’s not backing down from a controversial immigration programs that assists ICE in deporting illegal immigrants who have committed a crime. 
Within the Gaston County Jail, people are booked two different ways, depending on their charges.

If it's something as minor as a traffic offense, it's usually a quick in and quick out, but for the more serious crimes there's a different process-- one that actually requires people to be booked into jail-- and when that happens, two of the questions they ask have to do with where a person is from.

“We’re not going out there looking for people. If people aren't going out there getting arrested, they have nothing to fear,” Sheriff Cloninger said. 

RELATED: 'It erodes trust with our community.' Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office ends agreement with ICE

Cloninger talked with FOX 46 about how they implement the program known as 287(g). It’s the same program Mecklenburg County ended last month, which, at its core, is used to deport criminal illegal immigrants.

After the arrest of three people in possession of about $200,000 worth of methamphetamine, who later found the be in the country illegally, Cloninger is standing his ground on the program. 

“One of them is a bad gang member,” Cloninger said of the suspects. “He’s been deported more than one time from the country, and that's a bad man I don't want here because he's a threat to our citizens.”

The arguments against the program have largely to do with allegations of targeting of specific groups of racial profiling, and blanket targeting of illegal immigrants. Cloninger disputes that.

“I’ve heard arguments that 'I’m breaking up families' by using the 287(g) program. Well, when an American citizen committed a crime, he's coming to jail, so I’m breaking up that family,” he said. 

Cloninger told FOX 46 he didn't want to get into a back and forth with other counties that don't have the program, or in Mecklenburg’s case, just ended it, but he says the program has worked for them despite whatever blowback they've gotten.