Northern Virginia Counties Embracing Sanctuary Policies
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | June 2020
In recent weeks, two of the most populous counties in Northern Virginia have each moved farther away from supporting our nation’s immigration laws and toward undermining them with dangerous sanctuary policies.
Prince William County
Prince William County and the adjoining City of Manassas jointly operate a local jail, run by an 11-member jail board. Since 2007, Prince William County has been in a 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which first trains and then deputizes some of its personnel to function as immigration officers, gives them access to ICE’s databases, and otherwise allows them to seamlessly cooperate with the federal agency. Unfortunately, that agreement will be allowed to expire at the end of June.
On May 19, Prince William County’s board of supervisors appointed new members to the jail board, all of whom were either openly against the agreement or at least hinted they were unlikely to support renewing it. The vote was 5-3 on party lines, with all the Democrat county supervisors supporting the nominations and all of the Republicans opposed.
The jail board, including its new members, met on June 16. ICE officials testified at the meeting that just since 2017 alone, the agreement had “led to the transfer of 2,639 county inmates to ICE custody after their jail sentences finished. Among them: 65 inmates who were convicted of murder, 277 convicted of sexual assault and 1,612 convicted of driving while under the influence.”
Prince William County Sheriff Glen Hill (R), the jail board’s chairman, moved to renew and extend the 287(g) agreement, but no other member of the jail board would second his motion. Therefore, the agreement is set to expire on June 30.
Open-borders supporters cheered, while Sheriff Hill expressed disappointment, describing 287(g) as “another ‘tool in the toolbox’ that helps keep the residents safe.” Supervisor Yesli Vega (R-Coles), a career law-enforcement officer, also defended the agreement, saying “[i]t’s not an issue of people fearing the police … [it]’s an issue about allowing these predators [to continue] to victimize members of our immigrant communities.”
Virginia law still requires an immigration check of those booked into jail, but only for felonies. Commonwealth Attorney Amy Ashworth, the locally elected state prosecutor who is also on the jail board, said that even after the agreement expires, “that any person charged with a serious crime in the county would not be released on bail and would be held in custody long enough for ICE to issue a detainer for them if the agency chose to do so.” But it’s unclear what would amount to a serious crime, and whether such a policy of even honoring at least some detainers is likely to survive for long given the now-clear sanctuary leanings of both the jail board and the board of supervisors.
Over the past few years, Fairfax County has been adopting more and more sanctuary policies. Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid (D) ended the county’s Intergovernmental Services Agreement (IGSA) with ICE in 2018, and her county jail no longer honors immigration detainers. The county police department, which conducts front-line law enforcement rather than running the jail, has had a policy of not sharing information with ICE for years, but recently took it even further.
On June 19, the Fairfax County Police Department issued General Order 604, adding to its sanctuary policies. It provides that Fairfax police officers must:
- Ignore immigration detainers and administrative warrants issued by ICE;
- Ignore orders of deportation issued by federal immigration judges;
- Ban ICE from entering its buildings except with a “criminal justice purpose,” i.e., not for civil deportation proceedings;
- Not participate in or “facilitate” ICE civil enforcement;
- Fill out an “information sharing request form” to pass up the department’s chain of command so that information can be shared with federal agencies only for “criminal justice purposes” and not for immigration enforcement.
These new stricter policies may have arisen from a 2019 incident where a Fairfax County police officer was suspended for conducting a records check on an illegal alien he’d stopped and reporting the violation to ICE. The officer was ultimately reinstated but the department blamed its own policies for being insufficiently clear. Under General Order 604, it is possible additional officers could face disciplinary action up to and including termination from the department for trying to enforce immigration law.