CU, AST take part in testing software
Program trains law enforcement on immigration
The Lawton Constitution
By Tyrell Albin, Lawton Constitution Staff
Originally published December 9, 2007
New software created in Lawton and being field tested by law enforcement agencies all over the nation may soon make it easier for local officers to work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
Cameron University and Lawton’s Advanced Systems Technology (AST) started a pilot project for a teaching program called Basic Immigration Enforcement Training (BIET) a few weeks ago. The software fills a growing need to cheaply and efficiently educate nonfederal officers about dealing with aliens of all types, both legal and illegal.
“I know we’ve got roughly 100 students into it, from states all over the U.S.,” said AST’s Robert Miller. The company is still looking for state and local law enforcement agencies to field test BIET.
The software was developed through a Community-Oriented Policing grant, which paid for student workers at CU and for 500 law enforcement officers to be trained with BIET free of charge during the pilot project.
Enforcing immigration once was a purely federal bailiwick, but not anymore. State and local police are coming into contact more often than ever with immigration issues.
In today’s global society, Miller said, it is almost impossible for state and local officers to avoid becoming involved with immigration enforcement, even if only indirectly. He said officers need to know about immigration issues, regardless of their agency’s level of involvement in enforcing it. And because Oklahoma recently enacted laws that strengthen measures against illegal immigrants, the need for law-enforcement expertise on the issue is certain to grow locally.
“Add this to your knowledge base, because it will come up,” Miller tells law enforcement.
BIET was developed by CU associate professor Donald Aguilar and his students in the multimedia design department. They started working on the project in conjunction with AST after becoming aware of the growing need for educational materials on immigration enforcement. The questions faced by local officers were daunting.
“What is the documentation?” said Aguilar. “What happens if you arrest one (illegal immigrant)? Because there is something called consular notification, what happens if you run into a diplomat? Diplomats are now running all over the place. They’re not just on the East and West coasts now, so diplomatic immunity. If you do run into an alien, an immigrant of any kind, and this person commits a heinous crime, how do you look them up?”
BIET addresses these questions and many more, Aguilar said.
The computer program allows officers to be trained at their own pace, without the need for instructors, on a flexible schedule. It uses still images and audio to present the student with an interactive scenario, such as assisting with an ICE raid on a meatpacking plant suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, to teach them basic concepts, such as how to spot a fake resident alien card.
ICE and the Lawton Police Department provided most of the necessary law enforcement expertise for BIET.
“Rather than spending millions of dollars on traditional classroom training, basic subjects can be cost-effectively addressed using the Internet, allowing ICE’s staff to focus their specialized skills on advanced training subjects Aguilar said. “BIET may be a way to get needed instruction to law enforcement officers nationwide at minimum cost.”
Aguilar said completing BIET instruction does not legally qualify an officer to be deputized by ICE, but BIET does provide a good basic grounding in immigration enforcement procedures and also may be a good starting point for state and local officers who want to take advanced training and become certified to work with ICE.
After BIET has been thoroughly vetted through field testing, Miller said, he would like to see the program made available to smaller, financially disadvantaged law enforcement agencies.
“I would like to see it become available through a federal or state program so the rural agencies can take advantage of it,” he said.
There are 400 student slots still available under the pilot program. Any law enforcement agency interested in participating can visit www.nextportsolutions.com/biet/ online.
Donald Aguilar, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Multimedia Design at Cameron University, leads a team of six students who developed, in partnership with Advanced Systems Technology, a program designed to teach state and local police about practical aspects of immigration law enforcement. BIET (Basic Immigration Enforcement Training) is currently being field tested by officers across the nation.