One of Fairfax County’s greatest assets is our diversity. We are and will continue to be a county that exemplifies values of respect and acceptance, where we welcome and celebrate one another’s differences and cultural backgrounds. Our diversity makes our community strong and vibrant, and I am proud of what every resident has to offer.
Immigration is a federal matter. Fairfax County partners with federal authorities on immigration issues when required. The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office piloted the Secure Communities program under a partnership with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2009, and has continued this partnership through the Priority Enforcement Program, where individuals who commit serious crimes and are in this country illegally are turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation. Just being here without documentation is not considered a serious crime by DHS.
Fairfax County fully complies with federal and state laws requiring the county to ensure that people benefiting from public services are here legally. These federal and state laws are very clear about benefits that can only be provided to residents who are in this country legally. Such benefits include voting in elections, welfare, food stamps, and affordable housing. Many nonprofit and faith-based charitable organizations do serve Fairfax County residents who are in need regardless of their immigration status.
Lastly, Fairfax County complies with the federally mandated requirement that we educate all children, despite immigration status. The United States Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe (1982) that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits denying a free public education to immigrant children based on their or their parents’ legal status.
Our local police officers work hard every day to keep our residents safe and build trust with the community. We believe in community policing where residents are not afraid to call law enforcement if their safety is at risk or to report information critical to resolving an investigation. We do not ask, nor do we have the resources for, our police officers to become immigration officials. Any immigration efforts on the local level above and beyond our current cooperation with ICE would compete with police officers’ responsibility for community policing and law enforcement.
Additional immigration efforts would also compete with fiscal resources against other county programs. While we always support maintaining safe communities, we will also not risk our core values of respect for all people and community policing.
Fairfax County has spent the past two years developing and implementing very thoughtful recommendations of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission to increase police transparency, modify use of force policies, and improve communication between our police department and the residents they serve. The Fairfax County Communities of Trust Committee has also been hard at work for two years encouraging community dialogue and building relationships between public safety and residents.
Be assured, I will be vigilant to any future policy changes that could negatively affect our community and all the progress we have made. Our diversity makes our community great. We will continue to be a community that is inclusive and respectful to all people, because that is the lifeblood of Fairfax County.