At last weekÕs Board of Supervisors meeting, Joseph Budzinski, a member of HelpSaveLoudoun, requested the SheriffÕs Office enroll its deputies in immigration enforcement training.
ÒOur members believe immigration is not just a federal government issue,Ó he said. ÒMuch can be done at the local and state levels to ensure public safety and quality of life for the legal residents of Loudoun County.Ó
HelpSaveLoudoun is a grassroots citizens group formed to address and troubleshoot community improvement and development issues, and to assist residents and the local and state governments with ensuring the neighborhoods of Loudoun County remain safe for legal residents, legitimate businesses and the American worker, according to its Web site, www.HelpSaveLoudoun.com.
The group, an offshoot of HelpSaveHerndon, is mostly concerned with illegal immigration and its effects on the community, including residential overcrowding and violations of zoning regulations.
Budzinski said illegal immigration is a serious problem in neighborhoods like Sterling Park and is continuing to spread into Ashburn and Leesburg, and something should be done about it on the local level.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, the citizens group asked the Board of Supervisors to recommend that Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the next 30 days, to request immigration enforcement training for SheriffÕs Office deputies under a special program.
THE IMMIGRATION and Nationality Act Section 287 (g), allows ICE to partner with state and local deputies and police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
SheriffÕs Office deputies would be required to complete immigration enforcement training from ICE to be certified to participate in the partnership.
The four-and-a-half week training program, would qualify local deputies to process and detain illegal immigrants identified during criminal investigations.
The training is free.
ÒWith local authority to enforce federal immigration laws, the county would provide an additional level of safety and protection for its citizens against gang members, drug traffickers, pedophiles, violent criminals, repeat offender and fugitives who have found safe haven in Loudoun County among its growing immigrant population,Ó Budzinski said in his presentation to the Board of Supervisors.
SIMPSON REQUESTED more time to determine whether or not ICE training is a good option for SheriffÕs Office deputies.
ÒWill it really do anything for us?Ó Simpson said. ÒWe have a good working relationship with ICE.Ó
Most people think that once deputies receive immigration enforcement training, they can Òround upÓ illegal immigrants at checkpoints, Simpson said.
ÒI know that some people want that, but thatÕs not what this program will do.Ó
The program allows officers to question or detain people they believe to be in the country illegally until federal immigration agents can take over the case.
Currently, an ICE officer works closely with the Gang Intelligence Unit, Simpson said.
Typically, an ICE agent will pick up an illegal immigrant within 24 to 48 hours from a Loudoun County jail.
The Sheriff said other jurisdictions have complained about the amount of time it takes ICE agents to pick up detainees.
ÒWeÕve had a good response,Ó he said, Òbecause we are so close to D.C.Ó
Over the next few weeks, the SheriffÕs Office plans to sit down with ICE agents to learn more about the training program.
ÒThis is a hot topic no matter which side of the issue you fall on,Ó he said. ÒItÕs an education process no matter which way you go.Ó
SUPERVISOR EUGENE Delgaudio supports HelpSaveLoudounÕs request for deputy training due to the gang presence in the area.
ÒGiven the problem of gang crime in our area, and their habit of preying on and recruiting from illegal aliens, proactive steps must be taken to curb illegal alien activity in Loudoun County,Ó he said.
The supervisor said he is in favor of providing training to not all, but a few deputies. Rather than sending hundreds of officers to the training program, Delgaudio proposed only sending personnel who process arrestees at the Adult Detention Center to the program.
ÒThis would not pull field deputies from protecting the day-to-day quality-of-life issues of the community they serve or cost taxpayers an outrageous sum,Ó he said.
Simpson said it might be useful to send a few Gang Intelligence Unit investigators through the program, but he isnÕt sure how useful it will be to all the deputies.
ÒWe have to look at the big picture,Ó he said.