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Richard Piatt Reporting Sheriffs from across the nation gave the Attorney General a warm reception at the National Sheriffs' Association during their annual convention Tuesday. As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, he also expressed condolences on a local tragedy. "I don't think I can talk about violent crime or talk to a group like this one without talking about fallen officers. And tragically, there is an example with the recent loss of correction officer Stephen Anderson."
The federal-local partnership is becoming increasingly necessary, as resources become limited, and problems escalate. Gonzales is cultivating a better partnership between local and federal authorities. Both are working together more on human trafficking, drugs, violent crime and gangs. Summit County's Sheriff David Edmonds says that cooperation is getting better, "I think since 9/11 there's been a concerted effort from the federal government to share information with local law enforcement. I see that as something that's very positive."
But immigration drew the most attention with this group. He says if the bill doesn't pass, immigration-related problems will just get worse. It turns out that the gathering of thousands of sheriffs from across the nation is an important group to lobby for support of this bill.
Gonzales says, "The President recognizes the vital role that many sheriffs, especially those in border areas, play in dealing with crime associated with illegal immigration. But we recognize this is primarily a federal responsibility, and we need to step up and take care of it."
Gonzales adds, "Illegal immigration today is supported by criminal gangs, dedicated to document forgery, human trafficking and labor exploitation. This is unacceptable."
The Sheriff's Association is now under the leadership of former Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard. He says the organization is playing a key role in forming the policy before Congress, though the sheriffs are divided about some of the details.
In fact, under Kennard, the national group's input on immigration has been important. "I have people working with senate staffers as well," explains Kennard, because there is some division among the sheriff's themselves about some of the amendments that are in the bill."
Gonzales accepted questions from the sheriffs, but reporters were not allowed to attend that Question and Answer session.