ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- One year after controversial checkpoints in Escondido were created, officials with the Escondido Police Department said the program is helping deter crime.

Called "Operation Joint Effort," it's a program that partners Escondido Police with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in illegal immigrant criminals.

According to statistics released by the Escondido Police Department, 477 undocumented foreign nationals have been taken into custody by ICE officers working with the Escondido Police Department. Of those 65 have drug priors, 44 had assault priors, 11 had sexual assault priors, 126 had drunk driving priors, 37 had theft priors, and 16 had gang priors. 19 of the 477 have been arrested in Escondido multiple times since the program started in May of 2010.

"The ultimate goal of this program is to rid this criminal element from our community and not have them return," said police chief Jim Maher. "However, if they do return to this country they will think twice about returning to Escondido because we will find them and deport them as many times as it takes to get the message."

Despite the statistics, critics and immigration groups denounce the checkpoints saying they pinpoint Latinos.

"I do not feel welcome in Escondido," said Estela de Los Rios, executive director of the Center for Social Advocacy. "They only do them in certain areas where there's only racial profiling enforced, only Latinos. It's like a witch hunt. "

"The checkpoints have never been about immigration," said Maher. "It's actually the poor illegal immigrants in those communities that are going to suffer because those criminals are allowed to remain in the country, and their neighborhood and pray on them."

While the checkpoints in Escondido remain controversial, half-a-country away in Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law an immigration bill that critics say is stricter than legislation passed in Arizona. Supporters, wary of the way Washington handles illegal immigration, said it will deter the increase.

According to the law the Alabama legislation requires that police, in the course of any lawful "stop, detention or arrest," make a reasonable attempt to determine a person's citizenship and immigration status, given a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an immigrant, unless doing so would hinder an investigation.

It outlaws illegal immigrants from receiving any state or local public benefits, bars them from enrolling in or attending public colleges, and prohibits them from applying for or soliciting work.

It forbids the harboring and transport of illegal immigrants, and outlaws renting them property or "knowingly" employing them for any work within the state. It also makes it a "discriminatory practice" to fire, or decline to hire, a legal resident when an illegal one is on the payroll.

"All employers will have to check the legal status of their employees through the E-verify system, and also through the Alabama Department of Homeland Security," said Alabama state senator Clay Schofield.

According to de La Rosa, she and other immigrant groups are apalled by Alabama's decision to make it law.

"To me, that's just violating civil rights," she said.

Chief Maher said he is surprised that more cities are considering opting out of the federal Secure Communities program, which helps local law enforcement agencies detect illegal immigrants once in jail. He said programs like checkpoints are about crime, not about immigration.

"Trying to make that an immigration issue or a Latino issue is just a blatant lie," he said.