Before Prince William County, Virginia, recently refused to renew its cooperation agreement with federal immigration authorities, the county had helped provide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with close to 10,000 illegal and criminal aliens for deportation proceedings since 2007, according to an immigration watchdog group.
With the agreement gone and the county—located near the nation’s capital—becoming increasingly Democrat-blue and hostile to federal immigration law enforcement, illegal aliens in the county are likely to be freed from custody instead of handed over to ICE for legal processing. The county’s jail board voted June 17 to let the contract with ICE expire.
ICE says its so-called 287(g) program “enhances the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove aliens who are amenable to removal from the United States.”
Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act “authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, that permit designated officers to perform limited immigration law enforcement functions. Agreements under section 287(g) require the local law enforcement officers to receive appropriate training and to function under the supervision of ICE officers.”
Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which is the litigation arm of Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), criticized the county for letting the agreement lapse.
“For the county to let its 287(g) program expire shows a shocking level of irresponsibility to its residents,” Wilcox said in a statement.
“The fact that nearly 10,000 illegal aliens, many of whom were charged with violent crimes, were removed was a good thing. Now, there could be untold aliens facing murder, rape, and drunk driving charges in that community who otherwise would be processed for deportation. When county residents are victimized by these aliens, the Jail Board will have a lot to answer for.”
About 100 local residents rallied outside the Prince William County Government Center in May in an effort to save the 287(g) agreement, according to local media. But jail board officials were unmoved, questioning the effectiveness of the program.
After obtaining documents from the county, IRLI discovered that the county had handed over 9,537 illegal and criminal aliens to ICE since 2007.
The 9,537 figure was dramatically higher than previously disclosed statistics. Before the IRLI report, it was public knowledge that since 2017, the 287(g) cooperation agreement had led to the transfer of 2,639 county inmates to ICE custody after completing their time in jail.
More than half, or 1,612, reportedly did time for driving under the influence. Sixty-five inmates had been charged with murder, and 277 had been accused of sexual assault, The Washington Post previously reported.
The county reportedly signed the contract that allowed local jail officials to verify the immigration status of inmates in 2007, when the jail board was dominated by tough-on-crime Republicans. But since then the board, and the jurisdiction it represents, has become less Republican.
Self-described “community organizer” Elizabeth R. Guzman, a Democrat who is a member of the jail board and who represents part of the county in the Virginia House of Delegates, has said she became involved in politics in an effort to repeal the county’s 287(g) agreement.
“We’re trying to change here in Prince William County, after we were labeled so long as criminals,” The Washington Post quoted her saying last month.
Guzman said the agreement generated fear in the immigrant community after some of its members were arrested for minor traffic infractions and later removed from the United States. This made illegal aliens more reluctant to cooperate with local police, she said.
Guzman didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the IRLI report.
The Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center was only one of two law enforcement agencies in Virginia to sign a 287(g) agreement with ICE. The only law enforcement agency in the state that currently has such an agreement with ICE is the sheriff’s office in Culpeper County.
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins beat a class-action lawsuit brought by an illegal alien who claimed Jenkins violated his constitutional rights by detaining him at the request of ICE. The action was thrown out by a federal judge in August 2019, as The Epoch Times previously reported.
“I am pleased that this lawsuit seeking preferential treatment for criminal illegal aliens within our justice system has been dismissed,” Jenkins said at the time.