- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Herndon Police Department Chief Toussaint E. Summers Jr. says the town has been accepted into a federal program that trains officers to enforce immigration laws, including deportation proceedings for illegal aliens.

The Town Council has voted in favor of the plan but will hold a hearing to get public comment before signing a final agreement with the Department of Homeland Security.

Herndon spokeswoman Anne Curtis said comments from residents are “a priority for the mayor and council” and that officials “very much are looking forward to citizen input.”

If the deal is approved, two senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will train the department’s 70 officers and civilian personnel.

“We have an excellent police force,” said Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis. “I think this will benefit enforcement.”

Herndon has the highest percentage of foreign-born residents of any locality in the region, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 40 percent of the town’s 23,000 residents were born in other countries.

George Taplin, a retired U.S. Navy veteran who organized a local chapter of the Minutemen group, which seeks stricter control of illegal immigration, said nearly 24 percent of the population are Hispanics. He supports the plan.

“I think it’s great,” Mr. Taplin said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Chief Summers applied to the program in September after years of problems with illegal aliens, particularly those loitering while looking for part-time jobs.

In 2005, the council established a publicly funded day-labor center to keep job seekers from committing such public nuisance acts as drinking and urinating in public while waiting for contractors to offer jobs.

Residents of this Northern Virginia town who opposed the plan did not re-elect some town officials in the elections that followed.

Supporters said the federal government must resolve the country’s immigration problems but local governments have a responsibility to help their residents.

Officers who pass the five-week class will likely be authorized to question or detain people whom they suspect to be in the country illegally. They also would collaborate with federal agents on immigration cases.

At least seven other state and local law-enforcement agencies have been accepted into the program, including the sheriff’s department in Los Angeles.

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