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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Southern Utah needs more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson contends in a letter to the head of Homeland Security.
Matheson, D-Utah, said the St. George branch has two special agents for seven counties -- Beaver, Piute, Wayne, Iron, Garfield, Kane and Washington.
"There's a growing population and a growing need," Matheson said.
Local law enforcement agencies and the Washington County attorney's office have worked for years to increase the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"That's a drum that I've been beating for a long time," said Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith.
Matheson said he wants to make Secretary Michael Chertoff aware of the situation, and that's why he wrote the Aug. 8 letter.
St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton said immigration is always at the top of the county's law enforcement list. "Local law is not trained to deal with immigration law," he said. "I think if we work together we'll be much more effective."
Smith and Stratton would like to see 10 more ICE agents added to the St. George office. "Even though it's the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation the growth of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been flat or declined over the years," said Washington County Attorney Brock Belknap.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told The Salt Lake Tribune that another special agent will be added to the detention and removal office in St. George by the end of the year. Under a realignment of the agency's Offices of Investigations, Utah will move from under the auspices of ICE's San Francisco office to its Denver headquarters. "That's more than moving pieces on a chess board," Kice said. "The head of the Denver office said he will be able to draw on resources in Durango and Grand Junction (Colo.), and direct them to investigations in Utah as needed."
Information from: The Spectrum
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)