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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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The Arlington County Board approved a policy limiting police cooperation with federal immigration agencies despite continued concern from activists.

In response to criticism on the proposal, dubbed the “Trust Policy,” the County Board updated some sections ahead of the unanimous vote at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday). However, criticism from immigration advocacy groups remains.

Around 60 regional and national organizations endorsed a letter by La ColectiVA, National Immigration Project and the Legal Aid Justice Center opposing the policy. A handful of members from those groups attended the Board meeting, holding up a banner saying, “#ICE out of Arlington.”

“We continue to be extremely concerned that the Trust Policy is woefully inadequate when placing limits on Arlington County law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE,” the letter stated.

The main change to the policy that passed was the addition of a compliance provision, which was the result of community feedback, County Board member Matt de Ferranti said.

The county attorney will review all relevant warrants, court orders and subpoenas received by county government offices, other than the police department, to determine if compliance is required, according to the policy.

Department and agency heads are to investigate all alleged violations of the policy, while the Community Oversight Board will investigate alleged policy violations by the police. Findings from the investigations will go to the County Board. The Board will also receive reports from the police and the Sheriff’s Office on law enforcement contact with ICE.

The board added the compliance section because it illustrated the role of the Board and the County Manager in ensuring the policy would be fairly and uniformly applied, de Ferranti said.

Language was also added prohibiting police officers from asking people for their immigration status. And the policy now requires officers to get an approval to notify federal immigration authorities if they suspect someone they’ve arrested was breaking federal immigration laws.

Police officers may only contact federal immigration authorities after getting approval from the on-duty watch commander or a supervisor ranked lieutenant or above, under circumstances laid out in the Arlington County Police Directive Manual 523.04.

The circumstances include instances when an undocumented immigrant is arrested on a violent felony, a non-violent felony if specific facts of the case establish a threat to community safety, terrorism or human trafficking, street gang offenses, as well as those who have previously committed a felony or been deported.

“It makes it clear that an officer has to go up the chain of command,” de Ferranti said.

However, the policy’s affirmation of the police directive “places no meaningful controls on [police officers’] actions,” according to the letter from advocacy groups. The groups also criticized the policy for not ensuring people can provide a non-standard ID to access services and benefits, as well as to prove their identity when stopped for offenses.

The groups wanted the Board to put pressure on the Sheriff’s Office, which operates the county jail, to stop notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants are released from jail. Such collaboration between law enforcement and ICE led to “a breakdown of trust” in the migrant community, according to the letter. From January 2019 to October 2020, ICE arrested 104 people released from the Arlington County jail because of the collaboration, the letter said.

Despite criticism, the Board believed the trust policy is a step for Arlington to become an inclusive community.

“This does not transform Arlington overnight,” said Board member Christian Dorsey, who worked with de Ferranti on the policy. “It’s a necessary step, a vital prerequisite.”

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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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Morning Notes

Power Outage in Clarendon — A small power outage affected several businesses in Clarendon yesterday evening, including Arlington Independent Media and Galaxy Hut.

County to Expand Citizenship Aid — “Arlington government officials plan to expand a subsidy program that helps prospective U.S. citizens pay the costs associated with their efforts. County Board members on July 14 are expected to increase the subsidy amount and expand the ranks of those eligible to participate in the subsidy program, which is funded by private donations.” [InsideNova]

Local Couple Helps Seniors to Downsize — “Bill and Betty Ubbens, realtors with Weichert Realty and parishioners of St. Ann Church in Arlington, assist seniors with downsizing… The Ubbens have found the biggest resistance to decluttering is the ‘sheer amount of stuff to go through and the time to complete the inventory and planned disposition of the property.'” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Arlington Man Wins Big in Poker Tourney — Arlington resident Yaser Al-Keliddar won more than $150,000 and a World Series of Poker bracelet in a $3,000 limit hold’em tournament in Las Vegas earlier this week. [World Series of Poker]

Monitor Broken at ‘Super Stop’ — As seems to happen every so often, the electronic display at the Walter Reed Drive “Super Stop” along Columbia Pike — also known as the “million dollar bus stop” — is broken. A sign on the monitor, which is supposed to show real-time bus arrival information, says a replacement is planned. [Twitter]

It’s Friday the 13th — Be careful out there. But then again, only 27.4 percent of you are superstitious.

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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On Monday, District Taco founder Osiris Hoil officially became an American citizen.

“Today America has accepted me to be part of this beautiful country,” Hoil tweeted at the time. “Today I became an American!! Thank you USA!!”

The naturalization ceremony was yet another high point of a whirlwind three and a half years for Hoil, a native of Mexico. In that time Hoil went from laid-off construction worker to food cart operator to a partner in an expanding local restaurant chain. (District Taco is planning to open a third location, on Capitol Hill, early next year.)

We asked Hoil about his path to citizenship and business success.

ARLnow: Tell us a bit about your personal history before District Taco.

I am from Yucatán, Mexico, born and raised in small town call Tekax. Due of a lack of opportunities, my family (dad and mom) thought that I could have better opportunities in the USA. So I came here in 1999. My first job was as a dishwasher at a restaurant. I then worked my way up to become a kitchen manager (that took few years).

ARLnow: How did District Taco come to be?

It was founded by Marc [Wallace] and I. He was my neighbor and I used to go to his  house to have picnics with my family and his family. He loves my food and we came up with an idea when I lost my job.

In 2008, when I lost my job in the construction industry, I told Marc that I couldn’t find a job in the same industry and he suggested  that I open my restaurant. I told him I didn’t have money for a restaurant. So we came with the idea to open the cart.

ARLnow: When did you first apply for citizenship?

I applied in 2004, right after I got married. The process was hard, because it takes a lot of paper work and patience.

ARLnow: What was your reaction upon first learning that your citizenship had gone through?

It was great. When they told me that my papers were good, it was time to study the history of U.S. and civil rights, because they do an oral test in the interview. I didn’t have any problem answering the questions, so I passed the test. One of the questions I was asked was, “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?” I simply answered: “Thomas Jefferson.”

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Starting tomorrow, Aug. 18, Arlington will be hosting a month-long series of naturalization ceremonies for some 3,100 new U.S. citizens.

Seven ceremonies, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 15, will be held at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road). One will be held on Aug. 31 will be held at George Mason University’s campus in Virginia Square. In all, about 3,100 new citizens from Virginia and the District of Columbia are expected to participate in the ceremonies, we’re told.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had been holding smaller ceremonies at its field office in Fairfax but, according to spokesman Daniel Cosgrove, the agency has since decided to hold larger, less frequent ceremonies and thus selected the venues in Arlington, which can accommodate the larger events. The ceremony tomorrow at Kenmore is expected to include 400 immigrants, along with several hundred friends and family members.

Cosgrove said the events are not the “special ceremonies” which attract TV cameras and reporters on days like the Fourth of July, but they’re still open to the public.

“It’s always good to get out into the community, show people what we do and give them a chance to see this process,” he said. “It gives people an appreciation for just what a special country this is.”

Also present at the ceremonies will be several dozen volunteers from the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Arlington, who will be conducting non-partisan, on-site voter registration drives.

The voter registration effort will “make sure that all new citizens will be able to exercise their franchise,” said local LWV Voter Service co-chair Kristin Goss, who added that the League as been trying for more than a year to bring the naturalization ceremonies to Arlington.

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(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Volunteers are needed for a variety of opportunities throughout Arlington, such as citizenship teachers and youth soccer coaches. More information about the opportunities listed below, in addition to a list of others, can be found online.

  • The Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) seeks people who would like to volunteer as soccer coaches and assistant coaches for the fall season. Volunteers must enjoy working with kids ages 6-16. Soccer experience is helpful but not required. Coaches will be given training, and all necessary equipment is provided by ASA. Coaches must be available for games, typically on Saturdays, and for one or two practices per week on weeknights. Applicants can contact Justin Wilt at 703-527-0157.
  • The Community Outreach Program is looking for volunteers to be citizenship class teachers. There’s no need to be a certified teacher, the instructors come from all different backgrounds and professions. Volunteers must just be able to go through an orientation class and use materials they are given to teach immigrants the information necessary to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. There’s particular need for an instructor on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). There are also some positions open for weekday classes from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Clarendon Education Center (2801 Clarendon Blvd). Although it’s preferred that volunteers commit to at least three months, those who can’t make the full commitment are welcome to apply for substitute positions. Anyone interested in applying can contact Aaron McCready at 703-228-1397.
  • The Department of Parks and Recreation needs volunteers to help children with disabilities learn to swim. Trained staff members will lead the classes and volunteers will be in the pool to offer assistance and encouragement to participants. Experience working with individuals with disabilities is a plus, but not required. Volunteers should be comfortable in the water and able to swim, and should be able to attend four sessions throughout the year (one for each season). The sessions will take place at the pool adjacent to Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Shaeron King at 703-228-4731.
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