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Albertville seeks site to house illegals

December 3, 2008
The Huntsville Times
Source …..

Albertville Police Chief Benny Womack said he hopes to get a detention center built here to house the large number of illegal immigrants that have put a burden on his department and the court system.

Womack said Tuesday that 400 to 450 illegal immigrants have been arrested here since April.

Although the illegal immigrants are usually transferred weekly to a detention center in Gadsden, he said, over the last several months many have had to stay here longer until room could be found for them.

“The (69-bed) facility is apparently full,” Womack said. “The obvious way to rectify this is to build a facility here with a satellite office.” The City Jail only has 48 beds and has two jailers working in it per shift.

About three weeks ago, the City Council adopted a resolution seeking federal money to build a detention center and pay U.S. Immigration and Customs agents to run it.

Womack said he also would like to have some of his officers trained to run the detention center.

City officials are seeking help from U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and other congressional leaders to get the money needed to build the center. Efforts to reach Aderholt for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Aderholt supported the 2005 Illegal Immigration Control Act that he said in a statement then “closes loopholes in current law that illegal immigrants and their facilitators exploit to enter and remain in the U.S. illegally.”

Womack said an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 Hispanic immigrants live here. But he said he believes the city’s overall population of 24,000 is very conservative because of the large number of illegal immigrants who are not being counted.

During a census, “who’s going to answer the door and say they’re illegal?” Womack asked.

Womack said his department’s 40 police officers do not arrest people for being illegal immigrants. He said they’re usually discovered to be here illegally by Customs agents after his officers have arrested them for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, domestic violence, illegal drugs or other crimes.

Womack said he is concerned about his officers arresting illegal immigrants because “you don’t know who you’re dealing with. They take the risk of getting assaulted or shot, particularly when it involves gang members.”

From the files his department has kept on gang activity here, Womack said illegal immigrants who are suspected of being gang members are often extremely difficult to identify.

“We can run their fingerprints if they have a previous record that identifies them with whatever name they used before,” he said. But it’s difficult when dealing with gang members.

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