7News Investigates: The cost to prosecute undocumented immigrants


(WSPA) – Last year 240,000 undocumented immigrants were removed from the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, says that more than 80% of those removed, had committed crimes in the United States. Recently, a 19-year-old Greenville man, Daniel De Jesus Rangel Sherrer, was arrested for the murder of a Greenville County student.

Once arrested, deputies determined he was in the country illegally. An ICE hold was placed on Sherrer. We wanted to know what that means.

“We’re letting you know at whatever point you’re going to cut that person loose, please let us know, so we can pick them up,” said ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox.

ICE is only the arresting agency in the deportation process.  When they are notified that someone that has been arrested for a crime locally, is an undocumented immigrant, ICE waits to take someone into custody to begin the deportation process, until local law enforcement is finished with their prosecution.

In Greenville County, the average time for a case to be adjudicated is 12 to 14 months. Most times for an undocumented immigrant facing a major crime, they will not receive bond.

“if someone is here without proper documentation, obviously that increases their potential for flight risk,” said 13th circuit solicitor Walt Wilkins.

Because of that flight risk, those charged with most major crimes stay in jail until their trial. It costs taxpayers $63 a day to be housed in jail. Greenville County is currently prosecuting 42 cases that involve undocumented immigrants, which means the cost to taxpayers is nearly 1 million dollars a year.

In the past 3 years Anderson County has housed 45 undocumented immigrants facing a crime, Spartanburg County, 130.

The fact is that it is much easier to deport someone from the United States if they are convicted of a crime. According to a White House memo from February, President Donald Trump asked ICE to prioritize deportation of those in the country illegally, who have been convicted.

Greenville County Solicitor Walt Wilkins feels that deportation isn’t a substitute for serving a sentence.  “I could give you example after example of people I’ve personally prosecuted and then 3 months later they’re right back here, prosecuting them again,” said Wilkins.

One of the main reason Wilkins believes undocumented immigrants deserve to be prosecuted, comes back to the victims.

“They deserve some kind of justice and is it fair to that victim to be treated differently than any other victim, so they can be deported back to their home country?” said Wilkins.