It appears that Herndon’s Town Council has decided once again to make a stand on immigration, and will no doubt further alienate their Latino residents in the process. According to this article in the Washington Post today, Herndon’s Police Chief Toussaint E. Summers Jr. has petitioned the Town Council, asking them to enroll several of the town’s police officers in a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, 287(g), a five week course that will authorize local police to question or detain people they believe to be in the country illegally.
It seems fruitless to suggest that Herndon’s leadership consider avoiding any move that would further inflame ethnic tension in this small community. The broader question is what in the world do they hope to accomplish with this move? The Virginia State Police have decided to not participate in 287(g), because they correctly fear that it will prevent immigrants from reporting crimes and coming to the police in time of need. I think we all agree our immigration system needs a major overhaul, and programs like this may allow communities like Herndon to feel like they have more control over their situation. Local approaches like 287(g), which is fragmented and does not address the central issues plaguing our our immigration system, however, will do little else but alienate Latino residents and delude others that “something” is being done about undocumented immigration.