ICE and Alexandria: What we’ve learned so far

by Jonathan Krall (Grassroots Alexandria) and Mia Taylor (Tenants and Workers United)

A small group of activists, representing Tenants and Workers United, the Advancement Project, and Grassroots Alexandria, met with representatives from the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in November, 2017, to better understand the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bad news is that the Sheriff’s Office is voluntarily collaborating with ICE. The good news (or not-as-bad news) is that we can – and must – take straightforward steps to protect all Alexandrians and keep families together. Here is some of what we’ve learned so far and steps you can take to help.

1. Alexandria follows the laws of Virginia
When someone is taken into custody and held on secured bond, also known as bail, or held without bail, the Sheriff’s Office is required to ask two questions, based on commonwealth law: Were you born in a country other than the US? Are you a citizen of a country other than the US? If the prisoner answers yes to both, or if the person refuses to answer, the Sheriff’s Office is required to run an electronic Immigration Alien Query, which automatically alerts ICE as to the immigration status of the detained individual. This is how ICE knows when, for whom, and where to send a detainer request.

2. Alexandria goes above and beyond legal requirements
Even when a prisoner answers “no” to one of the questions listed above, the Sheriff’s Office sometimes checks immigration status anyway, based on suspicion.

3. Alexandria Sheriff’s Office voluntarily works with ICE
Alexandria Sheriff’s Office has an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with ICE. The agreement is entirely voluntary and can be terminated by the Sheriff with 120 days notice. The agreement outlines that the Sheriff’s Office will detain people an additional 48 hours past their local release date at ICE’s request. In other words, after the individuals serve their sentence for the locally committed offense, the Alexandria Jail will hold them for two additional days to allow ICE more time to pick them up. Many attorneys opine that this may violate individuals’ constitutional rights.

4. Alexandria Sheriff’s Office could set a higher standard
When ICE wants to pick someone up from the Alexandria jail, they send a detainer request (I-247A) and an administrative warrant for arrest (I-200). Neither document is signed by a judge. Without judicial oversight, ICE agents have more leeway to abuse their power. Typically ICE sends detainers for people who have civil, not criminal, immigration violations: people who pose no threat to public safety. We are particularly concerned by recent reports of ICE detaining non-criminal, non-violent individuals and separating them from their families.

Action: please speak up
Residents of Alexandria, please reach out to Sheriff Dana Lawhorne:
https://www.alexandriava.gov/sheriff/info/default.aspx?id=8546
(if the link doesn’t work, send to Undersheriff Tim Gleeson, tim.gleeson@alexandriava.gov)

And please reach out to the Mayor and City Council: https://www.alexandriava.gov/Council

Sample message: “I am an Alexandria resident who wants to protect Alexandria families from being torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Please terminate the intergovernmental agreement between the Sheriff and ICE. We must work together to keep families together and to realize the Council’s November 2016 commitment: “fostering an atmosphere of inclusiveness that respects the dignity and worth of every person without regard to … immigration status…” Please follow the widely applauded action of Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, who ended her county’s agreement with federal authorities in January. Please protect all Alexandrians by ending voluntary collaboration with ICE.”

We at Grassroots Alexandria ask that Virginia law and Alexandria procedures be updated to protect Virginia residents. Our local law enforcement should be concerned with local issues, not non-violent federal civil offenses, such as immigration. The broken immigration system does not serve Virginia. We should not voluntarily participate.

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