Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Sanctuary Vs. Inclusive

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Sanctuary Vs. Inclusive

Over the past several years, there has been considerable debate on whether or not Alexandria is in fact a sanctuary city. For a number of years, the city of Alexandria (along with Virginia Beach, Fairfax County and Arlington County) were considered by many government officials to be the four sanctuary cities of Virginia. Recently, this list has been revised and scaled back to include only Fairfax and Chesterfield counties. This begs the question of what constitutes a sanctuary city, since most sources indicate that sanctuary cities will limit their cooperation with the Federal government concerning immigration law enforcement. However, the Alexandria Council maintains that although Alexandria is not a sanctuary city, it is an Inclusive City based upon Alexandria Resolution 2246, which was passed on Oct. 9, 2007.

However, paragraph 5 of this resolution indicates that “beyond what is required by State and Federal law, the City and its various agencies will neither make inquiries about, nor report on the citizenship of those who seek the protection of its laws or the use of its services.” The Alexandria Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office and the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney are all in agreement that their officers cannot ask about citizenship when someone is arrested or booked into the Alexandria jail.

The Sheriff's office will only forward to ICE a copy of all felony arrests, but not gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor arrests. Should a person be a known to ICE as an illegal alien, then a detainer would then be placed with the jail. However, if the illegal alien does not have a prior record with ICE, nothing will happen, and the illegal alien could be let out of jail without an ICE detainer. How can ICE be notified that an illegal has been arrested if they are not allowed to ask?

The truth is that Alexandria is operating as a de facto sanctuary city, under the guise of a misappropriated terminology. By most accounts, the term inclusive city refers to urban planning and governance matters; i.e., “the needs of all people .... are valued equally (to include the marginalized), so that all residents have a representative voice in governance, planning, and budgeting processes, and have access to sustainable livelihoods, legal housing and affordable basic services such as water/sanitation and an electricity supply” (from the Inclusive Cities Project website).

This matter should be re-examined, and Alexandria should be realigned to the Commonwealth’s desire to have only two Virginia counties operating as sanctuary areas. The Inclusive City designation in the Alexandria Resolution 2246 is not relevant to the precepts of the sanctuary city concept, and should certainly not extend to law enforcement of citizenship. If this is not resolved, it becomes a dangerous precedent for other cities to follow, with potentially dangerous consequences.

Townsend A. "Van" Van Fleet