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Activists concerned with proposed Arlington policy on police cooperation with ICE

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center (file photo)

Activists say a county proposal to prohibit police cooperation with federal immigration agencies in most circumstances doesn’t go far enough.

The proposed policy, dubbed the “Trust Policy,” is set to be discussed at this Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting. The Board is scheduled to vote on the policy at its July meeting.

A group called Communities of Arlington Protected from Abuse by ICE (CAPA) believes the policy only codifies what already exists and doesn’t change police department policies that allow officers to ask and share citizenship information in certain circumstances. CAPA is made up of immigration advocacy groups Legal Aid Justice Center, La ColectiVA and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

The proposed policy states that all county employees are forbidden to ask for or disclose an individual’s citizenship status, unless specifically exempted by current police department policy or required by state or federal law.

Under the policy, county employees would be prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration officials to enforce federal immigration laws, as well as using or lending county resources to help them access an individual’s identity information, help an investigation or enforcement of any federal program requiring registration based on citizenship status. They also cannot threaten others because of their citizenship status.

Moreover, the proposed policy would allow any resident to access government services without providing proof of legal presence.

Currently, the policy governing the relationship between the local police and federal immigration agencies like ICE is Policy 523.04 of the ACPD Directive Manual. It states that the the police department does not “conduct immigration enforcement investigations.” A police officer cannot ask about the citizenship status of a victim or a witness of a crime and cannot arrest somebody based solely on a suspected immigration violation.

However, when someone is arrested for a crime, a police officer can under reasonable suspicion notify a federal immigration agency of an individual’s citizenship status, according to the directive manual. The proposed policy will not affect this exception.

“Our primary concerns are the ways that the draft ‘Trust Policy’ continues collaboration between Arlington Police and ICE,” Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg said in a press release.

The groups believe the proposed policy gives too much discretion to the police to cooperate with federal immigration agencies by not striking the exceptions listed in the current department policy.

“ACPD’s Directive does little to end ACPD’s collaboration with ICE, and instead gives police officers vast discretion to interrogate community members about their immigration status,” said the coalition. “Merely because those community members are suspected of certain criminal activity.”

The groups also criticized the proposed policy for not further regulating the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, or allowing individuals to use non-standard ID to access government services.

“The goals and aims of Arlington County’s Trust Policy cannot be achieved without ensuring that the Sheriff’s Office ceases its cooperation with ICE,” the groups said.

The groups urged the County Board to adopt the policy they drew up instead. In the CAPA policy, which includes similar provisions as in the proposed Trust Policy, people would be allowed to use non-government issued IDs to access government services and benefits.

The police department sought community input when drafting the current version of Policy 523.04, said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“Throughout late 2021 and early 2022, ACPD collaborated with community members, organizations and stakeholders and sought their input on an updated version of manual directive 523.04 Immigration Status and Access to Police Services, which was issued to all ACPD personnel on February 15, 2022,” she said.

Savage also pointed to a police fact sheet and public safety FAQ on the county’s website as additional resources residents can use.

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