City reaches compromise on ICE

The Manassas City Council reached a compromise on Immigration and Customs Enforcement training for local police officers at a meeting at R.C. Haydon Elementary School on Monday.

Council Member Jackson H. Miller made a motion that the council support ICE training for Prince William-Manassas Regional Jail officers as long as Prince William County supported the training as well.

If Prince William County does not do so, then the motion calls for the council to go forward with plans to have ICE training for local police officers.

“If the city of Manassas were the only governmental agency in the area to move forward with this, it would not have nearly the impact as we would have if we were able to move forward using both Prince William County, Manassas Park and the city of Manassas with the jail board,” Miller said.

He said he came up with the idea for the motion after discussions with Vice Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish Jr. over the weekend.

ICE training is part of the 287 (g) program, which is a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The program provides ICE training for local officers so they can enforce immigration violations.

Miller is running for the 50th District of the House of Delegates and supports ICE training for local law enforcement to help deal with illegal immigration.

At a work session on the topic last Wednesday, Police Chief John J. Skinner recommended ICE training for jail staff.

He gave a number of reasons why training for local police officers would be detrimental, including the burden it would add to an already overstretched police force and the damage it might do to Hispanic community relations.

Parrish and council member J. Steven Randolph supported ICE training for jail staff at the meeting Wednesday.

But Miller was adamant that local police should be trained by ICE.

Miller made a motion at that meeting that the council move forward with a memorandum of understanding with ICE for training for local police officers, but the vote was deferred to Monday.

A memorandum of understanding is a necessary step that precedes ICE training for local law enforcement and can take a long time. It spells out the responsibilities local law enforcement would have and the procedures they would follow.

Miller’s motion Monday combined aspects of the dual council positions on the issue.

Miller’s motion would have Manassas work with Prince William County, Manassas Park and the jail to come up with a memorandum of understanding between the the Prince William-Manassas Regional Jail Board and the Department of Homeland Security, as Skinner, Parrish and Randolph wanted.

The Department of Homeland Security oversees ICE.

If Prince William County does not move forward with the proposal or if it were to remain undecided until Jan. 30, 2007, then Manassas would create a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Homeland Security for ICE training for local officers.

Council member Marc T. Aveni said Monday that ICE training wouldn’t mean the rounding up of illegal immigrants.

“I think we need to be very clear that we are talking about illegal immigrants who have committed crimes,” he said.

Randolph elaborated by saying that the crime would have to be a felony, or the criminal would have to have committed repeated misdemeanors.

Council member Steven S. Smith tried to amend the motion so that it restricted those who could be deported to illegal immigrants who were felons.

Council member Andrew L. Harrover said that the motion shouldn’t be amended and that the details of who could be deported should be worked out with ICE.

Smith’s amended motion didn’t get a second and failed.

Mayor Douglas S. Waldron, who does not vote unless the rest of the council reaches a tie, said that support for the measure was important.

“I think it’s important, if we could, to approve this unanimously,” he said. “I think it sends a strong message.”

The council voted nearly unanimously for Miller’s motion. Smith voted no.