Updated: November 30, 2009 at 12:00 am
After years of lobbying by federal and local officials, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office opened Monday in Colorado Springs.
Some of those who sought it believe it was needed to curtail illegal immigration, but law enforcement officials at the official opening downplayed that role.
The downtown office in Colorado Springs is the ninth ICE office in Colorado and houses several cubicles and conference rooms as well as a cache of secure rooms to be used for interviews, confidential paperwork and holding weapons. Currently, three agents will work out of the office, with plans to add seven more, said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.
The new office will house an investigations branch which will look into criminal cases that span international borders such as human smuggling or criminal organizations with ties in several countries said Kumar Kibble, ICE special agent in charge of Colorado.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who contracts with ICE to house an average of 150 illegal immigrants in his jail, said he didn’t expect a local ICE office to have a big impact on day-to-day immigration issues.
“I don’t anticipate any real change,” he said. “As far as any crackdowns or raids, you won’t really see that unless it’s the result of a criminal investigation.”
Maketa said the ICE office in Colorado Springs, of the Department of Homeland Security, will help local law enforcement officers keep in communication with federal agents investigating a case, but the majority of the processing and deporting of illegal immigrants in El Paso County is done by 19 deputies trained in immigration procedures by a federal program.
The office has been the pet project of politicians including Lamborn, former Sen. Wayne Allard and El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg who have all been lobbying for years for its creation and said it was needed because of the county’s size.
Even though the office will deal with investigations, Bensberg said it will still help combat illegal immigration in the area.
“The presence of the federal office will have a chilling effect on a wide variety of activities,” he said, without elaborating.
“There were days I thought this would never happen,” he said. “If I had a tail right now, I’d be wagging it.”
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