Many of us attending the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting late into the evening Oct. 24 were dismayed to learn that the Fairfax County Police and the Fairfax County Sheriff are acting as extensions of Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel rounding up and detaining hundreds of immigrants, most of whom are suspected of a misdemeanor at worst. In fact, the county has turned over four times as many immigrants to ICE for deportation in 2017 as it did in 2016. This acceleration matches exactly the anti-immigrant surge in activity since the new administration took over in Washington.
Once again, we find Fairfax County law enforcement acting contrary to stated policy of the Board of Supervisors. This very Board adopted a resolution on April 4, 2017 pledging non-cooperation with the federal government on immigration except when serious criminal activity is involved. Immigration, the Board noted, is a federal responsibility; the county does not have the resources to take on these responsibilities and will not ask its officers to do so except in serious criminal matters. In fact, acting as an extension of ICE in minor civil offenses can jeopardize local law enforcement relations with the communities they serve, not to mention the devastating effects of breaking up families in the process. Nevertheless, the County police and Sheriff’s deputies continue to work in league with Trump administration ICE agents.
At the Oct. 24 meeting, those of us who stayed to hear testimony from the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, the faith community Sanctuary Congregation Network, the American Civil Liberties Union, CASA, and a coalition of immigrant advocates, learned that the Fairfax County Police Department patrols and searches for immigrants alongside ICE.
Furthermore, the FCPD responds to inquiries, alerts, and orders of ICE to detain and turn over immigrants sought by the feds, apparently including immigrants not suspected of any criminal offense. And, according to the Declaration of the Residents of Fairfax County submitted by the coalition of advocacy groups: “Worst of all, Fairfax County, through its Sheriff’s Office, maintains a contract with ICE to hold immigrants…as if they were under federal custody. This means our [county] government is making money off the suffering of our immigrant communities.”
County actions are more than a little troubling. Senior Counsel Allie Boldt with DEMOS noted it is quite clear the “legal landscape” provides room for the county to just say no to federal requests, especially when minor civil infractions are involved for which non-immigrants might get a citation if anything at all — and certainly not time in the county jail.
Why is the BOS, as in past police killing, turning a blind eye to police and Sheriff Stacey Kincaid’s behavior contravening county policy? Why are police so zealously pursuing and locking up immigrants? Would officers behave differently if the 1,400 person force composition better reflected the people they serve; i.e., if they had more than 3 percent Hispanics in uniform when the county is 16 percent Hispanic? (Sadly, these numbers have remained unchanged for years.)
Nor were Chairman Sharon Bulova’s closing words on Oct. 24 encouraging. As if to excuse or explain surging cooperation with ICE, she said, “We do have issues of human trafficking and gangs that do require our cooperation.” No one had said otherwise regarding such criminal activity.
Although not as harsh, her words reminded some of Trump’s campaign references to immigrants crossing our southern border as “rapists and murderers.”
Other Supervisors, including our own, sat as mutes, unwilling to speak against growing persecution of people in our community they had promised to protect.