A recently introduced immigration reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives could potentially end a federal immigration program currently used by the Town of Herndon to empower its local officers to enforce federal immigration law.
In March 2007, the Herndon Town Council voted to make Herndon the first incorporated town in America to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train and empower local officers to enforce federal immigration law under a program called 287(g).
Prince William and Loudoun counties and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park also partner with ICE in the 287(g) program.
But as of last month, some federal legislation calling for an end to the program has been introduced and referred to several House committees. The bill would instead concentrate federal security efforts at the nation's borders.
One of the provisions of HR 4321 -- the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 -- calls for the repeal of the 287(g) program and mandates that the authority to enforce federal immigration law rest solely with the federal government.
This past November, the Town of Herndon expanded its agreement with ICE, giving its local officers even broader federal powers.
Before then, immigration status checks within the town were limited to people detained for driving under the influence and other serious felonies. After the ratification of the new agreement in November, those restrictions were removed so that now anyone detained can have his immigration status checked.
"It is clear that the Herndon Police Department's application of the authority to enforce federal immigration law under the 287(g) program has been very successful and has made Herndon a much safer place to live and raise a family," Town Councilman Dennis Husch said at the time.
If 287(g) were to be dissolved under the new legislation, other ICE programs that partner with municipalities and counties could potentially achieve the same objectives.
Secure Communities, a program currently being used by Fairfax County, is an ICE initiative that focuses federal resources on identifying and removing high-risk criminal aliens held in state and local prisons. The cornerstone of the initiative is the sharing of biometric data between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Asked this week if Herndon's Town Council is preparing for the possibility of the 287(g) federal program going away, Husch answered with a succinct "no," adding only that if it did the result would be "additional illegal aliens, gangs, crime, and other antisocial behavior."