On September 21, 2019, after an automobile crash, a Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) officer turned a driver over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in violation of FCPD policy.
The immigrant was subjected to the invasive tracking of an ankle monitor while awaiting deportation proceedings. By contrast, the officer was merely suspended for a few days, then returned to full duty.
With 12,000 Fairfax County residents in immigration proceedings as of 2018—more than in Manhattan or the entire state of Arizona—tens of thousands of families fear that their loved ones may be pulled into ICE’s deportation machine every time they leave their homes to go to work, school, or house of worship.
Seven of the 10 Fairfax County Supervisors recognized this problem and signed the Commitment from ACLU People Power Fairfax (which I am a member of) to end voluntary cooperation with ICE civil enforcement. The killing by police of George Floyd and so many others, and unwarranted tasing of a Fairfax County resident on June 5, have shown that police target people of color, so we must curtail police discretion.
We applaud the first step in the process: FCPD, working with new County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and ACLU People Power, adopted General Order 604 on Immigration Status. It mandates that Fairfax police will not engage in or facilitate ICE civil enforcement unless required to do so by federal or state law, a judicial warrant, or a court order. FCPD may cooperate during criminal investigations only. In particular, FCPD will
● require a judicial criminal warrant (not a “warrant” signed only by ICE itself) to take action against someone because of immigration status.
● not ask about or disclose a person’s citizenship or immigration status, or other personal information that ICE could use to locate someone.
● accept identification documents other than a Virginia driver’s license, for example passports or consular ID cards from another country.
● no longer consider immigration status when deciding whether to take someone into custody for a traffic offense or other misdemeanor, rather than just issuing a summons.
Taking fewer people into custody can help defund the police, as many communities seek to do.
General Order 604 represents an important first step toward protecting immigrants in Fairfax County. Fairfax resident Jose Fernando Castillo said, “Now we can go to work without fear of being arrested by the police and never seeing our families again.” By training officers on the order, FCPD puts them on notice that violating it will lead to disciplinary action. We must hold FCPD to that standard to ensure that no more immigrants are unjustly funneled into ICE’s deportation machine.
Still, “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 Fairfax resident Nerbir Rodriguez. Along with CASA Virginia and other advocates, we look forward to working with the Board of Supervisors to strengthen protections and apply them to all agencies in the county.