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Arlington Sheriff’s Office to end ‘voluntary cooperation’ with ICE

Protesters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, will be ending voluntary cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a letter to local activists and lawyers, Sheriff Beth Arthur said she will be updating ASCO policy regarding undocumented people after consulting with her attorney.

“The ASCO will no longer recognize any ‘voluntary action’ requests from ICE nor place the information in our records management system,” she said. “The sheriff’s office will no longer contact ICE for any releases from our facility, to include felony charges.”

The Sheriff’s Office will however “continue to follow state code and submit any required information to ICE and the Virginia State Compensation Board” and “continue to honor any judicially signed warrants from ICE, which will be treated like any other detainer,” the letter says.

In a statement, immigration nonprofit LaColectiVA and Legal Aid Justice Center and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild celebrated the decision.

“While there is more work to do to achieve all possible protections for people at risk of criminalization at the county level, this is a major win for Arlington County migrant communities,” they said. “We hope that this ongoing community effort will be a model for an ‘Arlington way’ where the people, particularly those who are most harmed by state violence in its different forms, are part of decision-making and leading changes toward truly just, safe and strong communities.”

The move comes after the Arlington County Board approved a “Trust Policy” limiting police cooperation with ICE this summer.

As part of the policy, the County Attorney will review relevant warrants, court orders and subpoenas received by county government offices, other than the police department, to determine if compliance with the federal immigration agency is required.

Officers can only notify ICE with approval from an on-duty watch commander or a supervisor ranked lieutenant or above. Cases must involve an undocumented immigrant who has committed a felony or has been deported before, or someone who was arrested on a violent felony, street gang offenses or a non-violent felony with a community safety, terrorism or human trafficking threat.

Violations of the policy will be investigated by the county or in the case of police, by the Community Oversight Board. Findings will go to the County Board.

At the time, activists criticized the policy for not requiring ASCO to stop notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants are released from jail, which they said led to “a breakdown of trust” in the migrant community.

Now, Arthur says the forthcoming changes respond to the “impactful experiences that individuals and families in the community have had to face regarding ICE interactions.”

“I am extremely passionate about my role as Sheriff which includes ensuring the safety and security of the individuals in our custody as well as the citizens of Arlington County,” she said. “I pride myself on making informed decisions that benefit the communities I represent, which has led me to making the changes noted above.”

On Monday, a day before the date on Arthur’s letter, emails between members of the Arlington County Board and Legal Aid Policy regarding the decision to end ICE collaboration were reprinted in the conservative news site Breitbart.

Per the site, the emails — obtained by the conservative nonprofit Immigration Reform Law Institute — reveal “the extent to which Arlington County Board members are working hand-in-hand with activists from the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) to protect illegal aliens arrested for crimes from being turned over to [ICE] agents.”

It also brings up the county funding to LAJC.

Per the county’s 2022 budget, $25,000 would go to LAJC for offer legal aid and information to “help low-income immigrant workers and their families build assets and increase self-sufficiency.”

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