Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vegas police to identify jailed illegal immigrants (AP c/o San Francisco Chronicle)

Vegas police to identify jailed illegal immigrants

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(09-30) 11:36 PDT LAS VEGAS, CA (AP) --

Federal immigration officials and Las Vegas police have agreed to train some police officers to identify illegal immigrants in jail and start the process of deporting them.

The agreement will only apply to people in custody on other charges, said Steven Branch, field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and removal operations in Nevada.

Once arrested, certain officers at the Clark County Detention Center will be able to "take it one step further to ascertain" a person's immigration status, Branch said. "Officers will step in and do what (ICE) agents are currently doing."

Officers tasked with identifying and processing illegal immigrants will receive four weeks of training and access to a federal database of known illegal immigrants, police spokesman Ramon Denby said.

Denby said the partnership has not yet started as details are being completed. The police department applied for the partnership last year.

A call by The Associated Press seeking comment from Sheriff Doug Gillespie on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Gillespie said last year in a newspaper interview that a partnership with ICE would not affect other parts of the department.

"I want to make it very clear that this won't change my position about police officers at Metro stopping people or going into businesses strictly because what is looked upon as illegal status," Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal late last year. "We'll be dealing with these people after they're arrested and booked into the Clark County Detention Center."

According to ICE, 62 local and state police groups nationwide have similar partnerships.

Leticia Saucedo, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the partnership could have a chilling effect on local Hispanics, pushing them "further into the shadows."

"They won't want to come forward with information about crime because they'll be afraid of being arrested and deported," Saucedo said. This is going to make people more afraid of the police."

Denby said he did not think the partnership would affect relationships between the police and local Hispanics.

"We're not a fly-by-night organization," he said. "Before we run one individual, we're going to make sure we have the proper checks and balances in place."

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