Immigrant-rights activists took a victory lap Friday over Fairfax County’s new sanctuary policy limiting police cooperation with federal immigration agents, saying it could protect thousands of illegal immigrants from being deported.
Police General Order 604 bans officers from complying with warrants issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying they are civil detainers, not court-approved warrants.
It also bans ICE deportation officers from access to county police buildings, and it encourages officers to release people on summonses rather than arrest and book them for minor infractions, which could help keep them off ICE’s radar.
“Officers may not participate in, or facilitate, the enforcement of federal civil statutes (i.e. immigration laws),” the order directs — though it said police can still respond to situations where public safety is at risk, presumably allowing police to respond if ICE officers issued a call for help.
The new rules come after Fairfax County made national headlines last year by suspending an officer who contacted ICE about a county resident after running a records check and spotting a civil immigration violation.
The officer was quickly reinstated after a backlash, and the county blamed its policies, saying they were not clear.
Under the new rules, which apparently took effect in May, officers are prohibited from sharing personal information about those they encounter with federal agencies unless it’s for criminal cases, rather than immigration — though the order confusingly also says that police will comply with a federal law that specifically requires information-sharing.
The order does ban county police officers from acting on an immigration judge’s final order of removal, or confirming that someone has an immigration violation on his record. Even asking about administrative warrants could land an officer in trouble, the order suggests.
The Fairfax chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and CASA, a major Hispanic rights group, issued a joint statement praising the new rules.
“We are excited about this new order, but obviously more needs to be done so that our community won’t be afraid of being assaulted or dying at the hands of the police,” said Nerbir Rodriguez, a CASA member from Fairfax.
Fairfax County is Virginia’s largest jurisdiction, and CASA said the county faces a “crisis of deportation,” with 12,000 of its residents currently facing removal proceedings.
Virginia’s second-largest jurisdiction, Prince William County, this week decided to let its 287(g) cooperation agreement with ICE lapse at the end of this month.
That means county sheriff’s deputies will no longer help ICE scour the local jail for illegal immigrants who are eligible for deportation. ICE can still do it, but it will lose the manpower multiplier of local assistance.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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