Prince William County Board of Supervisors Takes Steps to End Agrement with ICE – Citizens Rally to Save It
By Shari Rendall | FAIR Take | May 2020
On May 19, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns, residents of a Northern Virginia county in the DC suburbs turned out for a rally to support Sheriff Glen Hill and protect his 287 (g) partnership agreement.
Prince William County is one of only two Virginia counties (the other being Culpeper County) in a 287(g) cooperative agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The 287(g) program enhances public safety by creating a partnership between local law enforcement officers and ICE which allows local law enforcement to be deputized to perform limited immigration enforcement.
This 287(g) agreement was in contention during the 2019 Virginia elections. Sheriff Hill, a longtime supporter of the agreement, defeated opponent Josh King who campaigned on eliminating the County’s 287(g) agreement. Unable to end the 287(g) partnership at the ballot box, the newly elected majority-Democrat county board of supervisors (BOS) is seeking to end the program by stacking the County’s Jail Board with members who want to terminate it. The Jail Board rather than the sheriff is party to the county’s 287(g) partnership with ICE.
With almost zero notice, the BOS put nominations for the Prince William-Manassas Regional Jail Board on their meeting agenda for May 19, despite the decision to only consider “emergency” matters until the coronavirus lockdowns were over and the public could comment on the meeting agenda items in person. The 11-member jail board, established in 1978, runs the jail that Prince William County shares with the adjoining City of Manassas. The sheriff chairs the jail board, and several other county officers (clerk, police chief, county executive) are on it ex officio. The BOS appoints three at-large members while the city of Manassas appoints two.
On the day of the meeting, “about 100” supporters of the agreement rallied just outside the BOS chambers. One of the speakers at the rally, Tom Homan, former acting ICE director and senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said, “There’s no downside to the sheriff working with ICE. They’re already locked up in the jail, ICE just wants access to that jail cell.”
At the start of the meeting, the three Republican members of the BOS, Supervisors Peter Candland (R-Gainesville), Yesli Vega (R-Coles) and Jeanine Lawsom (R-Brentsville), asked BOS Chairwoman Ann Wheeler (D-At Large) to reschedule the jail board nominations to a later date when the public could attend in person. They argued the Jail Board appointments were not an emergency. Vega, a career law-enforcement officer, further noted that “I don’t believe these nominees have the best interest of everyone in mind … They’ve been very vocal in their opposition to this program… and their goal is to get rid of it.” Wheeler refused to postpone the nominations.
Sheriff Hill told the BOS that the 287(g) agreement had led to hundreds of serious and violent criminals being removed from the county, including murderers, rapists and members of dangerous street gangs like MS-13. He further remarked that, “[i]t appears to me that the appointments are being made for political reasons … To me, this is kind of awful because in my 38 years of being associated with the [jail], I’ve never seen appointments being made for a specific reason.”
Over the course of more than twelve hours, the BOS then heard phone, video and occasionally in-person testimony from 82 members of the public, including FAIR, roughly split between supporters and opponents of 287(g).
Around 2:00 am, in a closed-door session, they approved three of the nominees and two alternates on straight party-line votes, 5-3. One of the nominees, former Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (Woodbridge), has been vocal in her opposition to the program and her desire to end it.
After the meeting, Supervisor Candland said he was “extremely discouraged by this whole process … In fact, I’ve never been more discouraged over the whole  years I’ve been on the Board.”
Supervisor Vega noted that she alone had received over 300 emails supporting 287(g) and added “[a]t the end of the day, we are talking about illegal aliens that have been arrested for committing a crime … I’m sorry this Board does not represent everyone in Prince William County … I really thought this was going to be the moment that was going to be our breakthrough, but this is not going to be the case.”
While the Jail Board is supposed to meet in July, it is currently scheduled to meet in June.