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Some agencies resist role enforcing ICE laws

Published April 30, 2009 12:01 am

Justice » Police chiefs in smaller cities want to attorney general's advice.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some law-enforcement leaders in Salt Lake County have been outspoken about their reservations to cross-deputize their officers, but others are waiting before making a decision.

Some chiefs and city officials want further clarification from the Utah Attorney General's Office before they decide whether to join hands with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under a new state law -- also known as SB81 -- effective July 1, it's up to local law-enforcement agencies whether they want to sign an agreement with ICE.

The Attorney General's Office is working on a memorandum of understanding with the federal government about ICE's 287g program, but it is unknown when it will be completed.

Midvale Police Chief Tony Mason declined an interview about his department's position, but the department's spokesman, Detective John Salazar, said the chief is waiting for the memorandum to make a decision about cross-deputizing his officers.

When asked about what Midvale officers and others are saying about the new law, Salazar said, "To be candid, no one's talking about this down here."

Murray Chief Peter Fondaco, who oversees about 75 officers, referred questions to the city's Chief of Staff Jan Wells. She also said Murray is waiting on Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

"We just want to see what direction he's going to give us," Wells said. "We have no defined, specific questions because we want to see what his issues are."

Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo also said he's waiting for the attorney general and "will comply with any legal guidelines that are set forth." He said he has some concerns about how the law would affect his department financially. He also said the ICE agreement seems better suited for the county jails, so that criminals who are illegal immigrants are deported.

Russo said he is "sensitive to the issue" because his parents were immigrants. Still, he said he understands some people want to get a handle on illegal immigration.

"I'm just one generation from being there myself, ... but I will comply," Russo said.

Under the 287g program, ICE pays for the training and lodging expenses; the agency continues paying officers' salaries.

The only crackdown on undocumented immigrants within the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office will come from the jail. Sheriff Jim Winder says the jail will hold -- without bail or bond -- any inmate who is illegally in the United States and have the inmate deported.

But that's as far as the sheriff will go. Winder has no plans to take immigration enforcement onto the streets of Holladay, Millcreek or any other unincorporated his deputies patrol.

"There is no legal requirement for local officers to enforce immigration [laws]," he said.

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Tribune reporter Rosemary Winters contributed to this report.