- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Herndon Town Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to enroll local officers in a federal program that would allow them to question and detain suspected illegal aliens.

The resolution directs Town Manager Stephen F. Owen to send a letter of interest to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about its five-week training, which would allow police to begin the paperwork for potential deportation of illegal aliens until ICE can take them into custody.

Council member Charles D. Waddell said the training will be another tool to help police. “We want to do everything possible to ensure public safety and the safety of our [police] officers,” he said.

Council member J. Harlon Reece was the lone dissenter.

If ICE approves the town’s participation, both parties will enter into an agreement, which would specify the parameters of the town’s immigration enforcement authority, assign a supervisor, and enlist qualified officers in courses including document examination, cross-cultural communications and racial profiling.

The training typically costs $500 per officer, and local agencies are responsible for lodging and travel expenses.

Herndon would become the first town in the country to enroll in the program. ICE officials said other towns have asked for information, but they would not say whether the towns are working on formal agreements.

Officials in Loudoun County said they are interested in the training and are in the “very preliminary stages” of getting information from ICE.

Herndon officials hope the agreement will help them root out criminals in a state that prohibits local law-enforcement officials from detaining illegal aliens unless they are suspected of a crime, have been convicted of a felony or have been deported or left the U.S. and returned illegally.

State law also bars police from asking the immigration status of persons they encounter during routine traffic stops.

On Tuesday, council members told residents that they will hold public hearings to decide what type of agreement the town will approve after ICE responds to the town’s letter.

“The council is always supportive of the police,” said Herndon Police Chief Toussaint E. Summers Jr., who came to the council last week with the idea.

The chief said he expects trained immigration officers to be on the streets within four to six months.

The vote comes as several Fairfax County residents are suing the town for using taxpayer money to partially fund a day-laborer center in town. The residents say the center violates state and federal law by helping illegal aliens find work.

Several town residents on Tuesday said the training targets Hispanics, and that it will hurt relations with that community.

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