- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The town of Herndon is on track to become the first locality in the region to start federal training in immigration-enforcement procedures.

Herndon Police Chief Toussaint E. Summers Jr. said at least seven officers from the western Fairfax County town will enroll in the training program, authorized under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

The program allows state and local law-enforcement agencies to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and detain immigration offenders.

“It’s like a tool in a toolbox,” Chief Summers said. “It gives officers another tool.”

ICE officials said yesterday a training schedule has not been set.

The Herndon Town Council voted unanimously last month in favor of the partnership with ICE.

Culpeper and Prince William counties are considering the program.

ICE has entered into 50 such partnerships in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, agency spokesman Michael Gilhooly said.

The agency funds the five-week training course and related costs such as travel, but the jurisdiction is responsible for paying its officers’ salaries, Mr. Gilhooly said.

“The goal of the program is to partner with communities to assist them in targeting individuals who create public-safety threats,” he said. “We’re aiming this program at drug offenders, human smugglers, smugglers of any kind, gang members, violent criminals — that’s really the scope of this.”

The program is not designed to train local officers in workplace raids or street roundups of illegal aliens.

“These folks are not on the street functioning as ICE officers,” Mr. Gilhooly said.

The program targets criminal aliens with whom local officers come into contact “during the course of their normal duties,” he said.

“Something has brought them to the attention of the authorities and has caused them to be arrested,” Mr. Gilhooly said.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes local intervention in immigration issues, which it considers a federal problem.

Advocates of the program say the training of local officers is designed to augment — not replace — federal authority.

“We’re not taking federal officials’ jobs,” Chief Summers said. “We’re there to be a force-multiplier.”

Officers who complete the program, through Section 287(g) of the federal act, would be able to interview suspects, determine whether suspects are removable and, if so, draft charging documents to begin deportation procedures, Mr. Gilhooly said.

“A 287(g)-trained officer can do those things,” he said. “In a department where they don’t have 287(g) authority, an ICE agent would have to respond to the scene.”

Critics also are concerned about the potential for increased racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

The ICE-led training covers immigration law, civil rights, intercultural relations and avoidance of racial profiling.

Virginia ACLU Director Kent Willis said towns such as Herndon — which struggled with the issue of illegal aliens and a controversial taxpayer-funded day-labor center — favor the training for the wrong reasons.

“On paper, the 287(g) program sounds fine,” Mr. Willis said. “It simply attempts to recruit local enforcement to assist with legitimate federal immigration law. Clearly, their interest in this program stems more from the growing bias against the Latino community than it does from concerns about public-safety issues related to illegal immigration.”

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