HUNTINGTON — Members of Huntington City Council will vote Monday night on an ordinance allowing city police officers to work with Cabell County Sheriff's deputies under a federal grant.
However, new language added to the grant application this year has some people questioning whether accepting it will open the city up to illegal immigration raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.
If approved, the ordinance will allow Huntington Police officers to work with Cabell County Sheriff's deputies through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The program is used to pay for officers performing drug interdiction patrols and for community education programs.
The grant is worth $44,000 and will be split between city and county police.
During an Aug. 26 City Council meeting, several community residents spoke out against the grant, fearing it will allow immigration officials to conduct immigration raids.
The grant application contains a new appendix in reference to "Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service."
According to the appendix, any government agency applying for the grant may "not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."
It also outlines federal laws and procedures pertaining to the arrest, detention and release of people suspected of illegal immigration.
The appendix was added by the Trump administration in regard to "sanctuary cities," or cities where laws and policies have been implemented to limit interactions with the federal government's efforts to enforce immigration law.
The administration had refused giving JAG program money, or any federal money, to cities that have enacted such laws. Huntington has no sanctuary laws, and neither does any city in West Virginia, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
However, City Attorney Scott Damron said the statute relating to communication between local governments and ICE has been on the books since about 1996. Agreeing to the grant's terms is an agreement that the city will comply with all federal laws, he said.
City Council members previously approved a resolution to allow Mayor Steve Williams to apply for the grant, although they were split on the issue.
Council members Charles McComas, Tom McGuffin, Carol Polan and Rebecca Howe voted against the resolution. Council members Tonia Page, Mike Shockley, Jennifer Wheeler, Mark Bates, Clark and Vence voted in favor of it, leading to its adoption. Council District 9 was vacant at the time because of the resignation of council member Tina Brooks.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.