There had been rumblings in the community for a while. At the International Women’s Day event, feminist activists said the city needed to stand up for immigrant rights and reject its relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At a City Council meeting on March 17, community members repeated requests for the Alexandria’s Sheriff’s Office to end its relationship with ICE.
“These families are really feeling attacked,” said Maya Taylor, a community organizer with Tenants and Workers United. “This feeling of oppression is at all levels of government, including Alexandria. Leaders have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect all its citizens.”
Taylor said there were serious concerns about the protocol for the Sheriff’s Office in dealing with ICE.
“[Alexandria] is detaining individuals 48 hours past local release date when ICE sends an administrative warrant,” said Taylor. “It’s not a judicial warrant, not signed by a judge. From 2016 to 2017, number of individuals transferred from Alexandria to ICE almost doubled. [This is] 109 families impacted under voluntary policies. Encourage Lawhorne to require ICE to present judicial warrant. No federal law that requires local jails to honor administrative warrants.
“Fairfax and Arlington have said if ICE wants to prolong detainment of individual, ICE needs to bring judicial warrant to them.”
Taylor also said there were concerns that Alexandria was offering additional bed space to ICE detainees, promising them access to jail for overflow space.
Finally, in the March 20 City Council meeting, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne came before the City Council to address the criticisms. Lawhorne agreed that he’d seen fear in the community as a result of rhetoric under the new administration. Lawhorne said he asked his deputies to keep an eye on immigration policies and to work closely with local immigrant community groups.
“Our policies and practices have not changed since 2008,” said Lawhorne. “Unfortunately what’s happened recently is things have been misinterpreted and gotten off track. By law we are required to do certain things when it comes to ICE. We follow that law.”
Lawhorne said when someone is brought in as an inmate, their fingerprints go into the state database, which is then sent to the FBI and then to ICE.
“We’ve told ICE if you want us to hold someone, you have to send us form 200, an arrest warrant,” said Lawhorne. “Fairfax and Arlington can say they don’t honor judicial warrants, but they still turn people over to ICE.”
Lawhorne noted that while Fairfax is preparing to terminate its contract with ICE to provide bed space, Alexandria’s situation isn’t as simple.
“When the jail was built in 1987, the city entered into an agreement with the federal government to provide extra floor space to provide room for federal inmates when they receive a request,” said Lawhorne.
Lawhorne said that the Sheriff Office’s cooperation with ICE is limited to what is required by law.
“You have an obligation to uphold the law,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “Barring an opinion that might or might not be forthcoming from the Attorney General, you’re upholding the law as such.”
“If the Attorney General says tonight not to uphold that law,” said Lawhorne, “then we won’t.”