Originally Published: March 1, 2008 8:19 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors this past week approved an agreement between the sheriff's office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, that will allow YCSO officers to begin enforcing federal immigration law after receiving specialized training.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, designated county sheriff's officers have limited law enforcement authority in the arrest of illegal aliens. But before these officers gain permission, ICE officers must train them for four weeks in Phoenix.
Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said YCSO is currently the only law enforcement agency in Yavapai County that U.S. Customs Enforcement has approved for this training.
The program will teach officers about immigration law, intercultural relations and use of the Department of Homeland Security databases - ones that positively identify criminals and illegal immigrants.
Waugh said his office will select 10 officers for the training - including six detention officers who will start training this month - and four field deputies.
After earning this qualification, detention officers can determine the legal status of any arrestee at either of the county's jails in Prescott or Camp Verde.
"All (area) law enforcement agencies booking suspects into the county jail will have this service," Waugh said. "With the ability of detention officers to promptly determine the legal status of an arrestee, the Yavapai County attorney can use this information to decide whether prosecution or deportation would be in the best interest of justice."
After ICE trains four of YCSO's field deputies, those deputies will carry out Immigration Task Force operations and give other local police departments assistance with enforcing federal immigration law on the highways and freeways in the county.
Since April 2007, ICE and YCSO deputies have worked on joint task force operations for criminal illegal alien warrant sweeps. During that time, Waugh said sheriff's officers have transferred more than 700 illegal immigrants to ICE agents.
"This will give us the authority to detain (illegal immigrants) until ICE officers can pick them up," Waugh said. "Currently, if we stop people (on the highways) anywhere in Yavapai County and we feel that these individuals are illegal immigrants, we have to call ICE on a 24-hour hotline and detain them on site until ICE interviews them by telephone and places a detainer on them."
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