View Full Version : ICE Training Not Gaining Town Support

03-07-2007, 11:18 PM
ICE training not gaining town support


By: Hilary Lewis

Members of the Town Public Safety Committee can't support training local police to solve what they see as a national problem.

At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 27, the committee discussed a proposal to allow private citizen, Donna Kemp, to pay for two officers from Town Police to participate in Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE training, part of 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

At its last meeting, the committee heard from Councilman Steve Jenkins, who has spearheaded the fight in Culpeper against illegal immigration and supports implementing this program.

According to Jenkins, ICE training would provide officers with a "better understanding of how to deal with undocumented individuals in our community."

What is 287(g)?

A section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to enter into a written agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding, to delegate the authority of enforcing federal immigration laws to a state or political subdivisions of a state.

ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was created after 9/11 and today is the largest branch of the Department of Homeland Security. It seeks to enforce customs and immigration laws to protect the US from terrorist attacks. ICE "targets the people, money and materials that support terrorist and criminal activity."

All of this information and more can be found at www.ice.gov

But after the committee was updated on the necessary protocol and history of the program, they felt that Culpeper was just not ready.

"They are looking for the big fish," said Mayor Pranas Rimeikis. "It's all a matter of numbers and statistics to them." He believes that the program belongs in big cities, where crimes like drug and human trafficking and other violent crimes exist, none of which he recalled seeing on the court dockets for Culpeper.

"This is just something I cannot support," he said. "Some folks seem to think this program will allow us the latitude to stop people on the street and ask for their legal status."

The town was provided information on the ICE training program by ICE Special Agent Mark McGraw, who agreed to speak with the Council at its next meeting.

But after reviewing the documents provided, the public safety committee didn't feel that hearing from Agent McGraw was warranted due to the fact that the town didn't fill most of ICE's specifications.

Some of the necessary protocol includes the provision of a training facility, a dedicated electrical circuit and data terminal for the exclusive use by ICE, and office/working space for ICE supervisory oversight.

"I'm all for the training," said Councilman Chris Snider. "But the more I read, we need to first build our police station and hire a police chief."

The Town is currently seeking to fill the head position at the department after former chief Dan Boring retired in December of last year. Conceptual design documents for the new police station were approved earlier this year and the town in currently in the construction bidding process for the building.

In addition to space and equipment requirements, in order to participate in the program, ICE requires the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town and ICE as well as a minimum two-year commitment "to completely process the aliens they encounter upon completion of the 287(g) training" by two town police officers.

While these officers are training, the town would need to fill the vacancies by hiring additional officers and training them.

"Are we willing to take our officers off the street to perform a federal function, while not getting paid for it?" asked Risner.

His fellow committee members agreed saying that further data on the program need to be collected before a decision could be met. Town Council will discuss the issue at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 13.

"Bottom line, 287(g) helps ICE do their job, not the local community," said Risner.

In the end, the committee followed the sentiment that was felt in recent State legislation, when three immigration bills, HB 1618, HB 1970, and HB 2926 were killed in the Virginia Senate. The bills would have allowed state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

Tim Freilich, the Legal Director of the Virginia Justice Center in Charlottesville, said that while Culpeper's commitment to ICE would be legal, immigration enforcement rests on the shoulders of the federal government and should be kept out of local agencies.

"There is a real danger in local law enforcement fixing national immigration problems," Freilich said. "When you have local police trying to enforce immigration law, you destroy the trust between local law enforcement and the local immigrant communities, so in turn, the immigrant community won't cooperate with local police and that leaves all Virginians vulnerable."

At the County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Lee Hart as well as candidate Scott Jenkins, both say that they support training Culpeper deputies in immigration enforcement.

"The biggest consequence of local enforcement is fear. Immigrant communities will not help law enforcement in community policing, they will not respect it. Successful community policing efforts depend on trust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community," said Freilich.