There has been much buzz around the area about the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Department and the Memoranda of Agreement under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 287(g) Program.

Sadly, most of what I hear is either incorrect or politically motivated.

In 1996 President Clinton signed into law the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. 287(g) refers to the section of that law which creates a program whereby state and local police officers may collaborate with the federal law enforcement agencies to enforce these laws, including identifying and removing citizens of foreign countries who have failed to fulfill the legal requirements to live in the United States.

Oddly there has been no objection to this law—rather, only its enforcement. Some have an objection to the idea of working with federal agencies, which is utter nonsense. Local law enforcement has always done so with agencies such as the DEA and FBI to charge local criminals with their federal crimes such as drug distribution or even bank robbery. This complaint holds no credence.

The 287(g) program authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into an agreement with state or local police departments, deputizing selected state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal immigration agents. These are negotiated between DHS and the local authorities and include delegation of authority to a limited number of police officers. All of this must be done under the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Deputized officers are required to abide by all federal civil rights laws and regulations. In general, specially trained and deputized officers may interview individuals to ascertain immigration status, reference DHS databases, issue a Notice to Appear, make recommendations and transfer affected noncitizens to ICE.

What then, would make someone an affected noncitizen? Under Culpeper’s Agreement, called the ‘Jail Enforcement Model,” this refers to alleged noncitizens who have been arrested on state or local charges. In short, they have already been arrested on a criminal charge. If the questioning additionally reveals that they are a noncitizen, then the provisions of 287g are activated.

Culpeper benefits by reducing the number of criminal offenders that are released back into the community without ever having been screened for immigration violations. The efficiency and safety of the program allows ICE to actively engage criminal alien offenders while in custody already rather than conducting at-large arrests which can pose safety concerns for the officers and the community. Law enforcement working together provides a tremendous benefit to our safety through increased law enforcement communication and overall community-policing effectiveness.

As this only affects those already charged with a crime, there is no racist element, as is widely alleged. It is only ensuring that those criminals who are also illegal immigrants are treated accordingly, rather than released because of a lack of collaboration on the part of law enforcement.

Putting to bed questions of Constitutionality, Virginia Code states: “All law enforcement officers … shall have the authority to enforce immigration laws of the United States … in the course of acting upon reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed or is committing a crime, arrest the individual without a warrant upon receiving confirmation from (ICE or Homeland Security) that the individual is an alien illegally present in the United States, and has previously been convicted of a felony in the United States and deported or left the United States after such conviction.” This court-approved agreement only makes it safer.

Finally, I must add that this has not added any burden to taxpayers or added to the County or Sheriff Department budget.

So if your electoral decision in a few weeks is based on the implementation of this program I urge you to understand the facts first, not the political rhetoric.

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Timothy P. Cotton, a Culpeper County resident, is the national director of operations of the Alliance Party.

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