FEBRUARY 11, 2009
The sheriff in a Washington county near Canada won’t participate in a federal partnership to protect the border because he objects to Border Patrol terminology for illegal immigrants and refuses to allow deputies to detain them.
Jefferson County Sheriff Michael Brasfield says it is “unacceptable” that the U.S. Border Patrol refers to illegal immigrants as “criminal aliens” and that the federal agency requires his deputies to detain suspected illegal immigrants in order to participate in the program.
So the sheriff rejected the offer and funding for his northwest Washington county, with a population of about 30,000, to help protect national security. The multi million-dollar Homeland Security program aims to enforce immigration along the nation’s increasingly vulnerable northern border.
Local law enforcement agencies near the Canadian border have been recruited to participate in the effort. A peninsula with two international ports of entry, Jefferson County has seen a Border Patrol increase in the last few months because it’s one of the targeted areas. Agents regularly conduct roadblocks on state highways, monitor ferry runs and board buses.
Homeland Security officials say the area is challenging because it’s porous and extremely busy with maritime and land crossings frequently used by drug traffickers. In the last few months alone, 360 illegal immigrants were arrested in the region and nearly 1,000 were arrested last year.
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