(KCPW News) Police officers in Washington and Weber Counties will soon begin enforcing federal immigration laws. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency gave approval to the sheriff's office in both counties yesterday.
"Basically we'll be trained to handle the paperwork that ICE agents normally handle, considering the criteria that ICE agents normally look at, and have access to ICE database to confirm or deny if a person is eligible for deportation," says Chief Deputy Terry Thompson of the Weber County Sheriff's Office.
Thompson says eventually 15 officers in Weber County will receive the training. Washington County plans to have two or three officers cross-designated to enforce immigration laws.
In the past, immigrant rights activists and some police officials have expressed concern that tasking officers to enforce federal laws would cause mistrust between the police and the public. However, Washington County Chief Deputy Rob Tersigni says residents there are in favor of the idea.
I've heard nothing but applause from the public, of course not the illegal aliens, but I've heard nothing but applause from different groups for us receiving this opportunity to train these officers in that capacity," says Tersigni. "A lot of times illegal aliens don't want to report crimes because they're afraid they're going to be deported or things of that nature, but I think that's been a problem even before we've had these officers."
Neither county is certain when their officers will get ICE training, however both expect to have the program running before the end of the year.
Senate Bill 81, which goes into effect on July 1, 2009, requires a county sheriff to make a reasonable effort to determine the citizenship status of a person confined to a county jail. It also prohibits a municipal government from enacting an ordinance prohibiting a local law enforcement officer from cooperating with federal officials regarding the immigration status of an individual.