LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - President Trump ordered that any immigrant not in this country legally should be deported if they've been charged with a crime. Any crime.
His supporters pointed to how often illegal aliens wind up committing additional crimes after they could have been deported the first time.
A FOX 5 I-Team analysis of jail records in two metro counties found hundreds of examples of just that, with the second crime sometimes even more serious than the first. But how much are Americans willing to spend to deport everyone arrested on even the smallest of crimes?
"We shouldn't deal with them a second time or a third time," stressed Gwinnett County sheriff Butch Conway. "Or allow them a chance to hurt a citizen."
Immigration records are usually private, but the FOX 5 I-Team managed to get thousands of public records from Cobb and Gwinnett County jails. They partner with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to screen immigrant prisoners through a program called 287(g). We found lots of troubling examples.
One involved an April, 2015 armed robbery of the owner of a check-cashing store in Duluth.
"He just waved the guns," the owner told us back when it happened. The gunmen attacked him while he was opening the store one morning.
One of those gunmen was Jose Alfaro-Contraras, a native of El Salvador. But just one year earlier, Alfaro-Contraras had been in the Gwinnett County jail on a shoplifting charge, with immigration authorities made aware. So how did he get out to commit another crime?
"That's just wrong," admitted sheriff Conway.
We found plenty of others.
Aurelio Mayo Perez booked into Cobb County for no driver's license in 2011. Two years later, charged with aggravated child molestation and rape.
Wilmer Lazo Caballero caught for no driver's license in 2011, furnishing alcohol to a minor in 2013, and eventually busted for cocaine trafficking last year.
Soloman Cassell was also busted twice for minor crimes. Yet in 2012 he was still around to hold up two beauty supply stores in Gwinnett County at gunpoint.
Gwinnett assigned 18 deputies, costing more than $1 million a year, to help screen prisoners not born in this country. But citing a lack of money, in 2010 ICE announced in a letter it would deport only the most serious criminals, charged with the most dangerous crimes.
"Were you frustrated when they changed the policy?" I asked the sheriff.
"Sure, we're going to do the same amount of work. We just have less results from it."
Of the four Georgia counties that participate in 287g, Gwinnett always has the biggest numbers. According to ICE, in the last fiscal year deputies identified 2032 suspects born outside the U.S. But either because they were here legally, or their crimes were not serious enough, only 194 were detained by ICE. That's less than 10 percent.
Like the President, Conway wants a zero tolerance policy for anyone here illegally who comes into his jail. No matter what their crime.
"Automatically. If they commit a crime they should go," he stressed.
"Even a no driver's license?"
"Even no driver's license," explained the sheriff. "I would not sneak into Mexico and drive a car knowing I wasn't supposed to be in their country and violate their laws on top of it. It's just stupid."
But deport everyone arrested for a crime? OK. How much money are you willing to spend?
"They've been deporting as many people as they can with the money they've been allotted," pointed out Charles Kuck. He's an attorney who also teaches immigration law at Emory University School of Law.
Kuck explained anyone being deported still has to go through a lengthy process, starting with an appearance before an immigration judge in downtown Atlanta.
"Once I go before a judge he's going to set a final hearing for me... in 2020," Kuck said. "So yeah, you can deport more people, but really all you're doing effectively for the most part is clogging the immigration courts further where they're already 100 judges short nationwide."
And even a criminal suspect here illegally can still get released from custody on bond. Some never come back. Our analysis found more than a thousand examples of immigrants in Gwinnett and Cobb who failed to appear for their next hearing. Kuck says there's just not enough jail beds.
"We're talking 500,000 people are currently in deportation proceedings," he explained. "You going to detain all 500,000?"
And you would have to detain some for years before they can be officially deported.
And it's here that sheriff and immigration expert agree: legalize the status of the vast majority of immigrants who don't get into trouble, they say, and you can focus on the ones who do.
"I know Hispanic families," Sheriff Conway told me. "They're here illegally and they're great people. Personally, I don't want to see them deported. Because they add to our society. But there are so many that don't. And we need to identify the ones that don't."
Kuck says Congress should legalize undocumented immigrants, stopping short of making them citizens, and then better focus on the real problem.
"If you're really looking for the bad people, why do you have to sort through all the good people to find them?" he asked. "You fix the law and you can solve Sheriff Conway's problem. You can have zero tolerance policy if that's what you want. But you can't do that if you don't fix the law."
Think it’s easy to find out whether someone’s deported? It’s not. Read Randy’s first-person account by clicking here.