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Report released by Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general decries erratic training

BY VALLERY BROWN Modified: April 7, 2010 at 4:15 am •  Published: April 7, 2010
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The civil rights of individuals detained by state and local law enforcement officers who enforce federal immigration laws are not adequately protected, according to a report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

The officers also are not appropriately trained or supervised, according to the report from the office of Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general.

Local and state law enforcement jurisdictions are given the authority to enforce federal immigration laws under an agreement with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department is the sole jurisdiction in the state with such an agreement. It was one of 66 such agreements in 23 states involving more than 800 state and local law enforcement officials in 2009, according to the report.

Sgt. Shannon Clark, supervisor of the immigration enforcement program in Tulsa County, said there is room for improvement in any government program. Clark said that some complaints come from disconnects between local jurisdictions and Washington and from the public’s lack of knowledge about the program.

"We are an extension to help combat illegal immigration in the country,” said Clark. "We are enforcing federal law through the agreement.”

The report cites inconsistent training of officers allowed to enforce the federal laws. Clark said he’s seen seasoned federal agents fail out of the five-week training programs.

The department currently has 27 deputies trained to enforce federal immigration law. In 2009, nearly 4,000 detainees were processed through the Tulsa County jail.

What critics say
Critics of the program say officers should only investigate crimes like rapes and murders and overlook federal immigration laws, Clark said.