The Crescent Report

October 1, 2010

Arlington County, Virginia Opts Out of Federal Immigration Program

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 2:54 pm

There has been much discussion concerning the xenophobic and racist immigration legislation SB-1070, passed by the Arizona state legislature.  However, the Obama administration’s Secure Community Act, which encourages local law enforcement to assume the federal responsibility for immigration enforcement, opened the door to this regressive law.

However, there are some localities in America that have refused to cooperate with the Secure Community act and thereby divert their local resources to immigration law enforcement, or to jeopardize the trust between community residents and the police.

Kudos to the public officials of Arlington, Virginia, who refused to surrender public safety and human rights for a federal “payoff.”

The federal government bankrolling local law enforcement communities is a poor substitute for badly needed national immigration reform policy.

Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: If you dance to the music, you’ve got to pay the piper.

Arlington County, Virginia Opts Out of Federal Immigration Program

The Arlington County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to withdraw from the federal Secure Communities program, saying that it is not the role of Arlington’s law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.

The program is an agreement between the federal government and 26 states where local law enforcement agencies send fingerprints of individuals they arrest to be checked against the FBI’s national criminal database and the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration database.

The resolution, introduced by board member J. Walter Tejada, directs the county manager to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Virginia State Police of the county’s intent.

Arlington County became the second jurisdiction in the nation to vote to opt out of the program. Earlier Tuesday, the county board in Santa Clara, Calif., also voted against the program.

All counties in Virginia have been covered under the Secure Communities program since June 21. Officially withdrawing from the program is a matter for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. Calls to ICE were not immediately returned.

Arlington County’s stance on immigration runs counter to that of nearby Prince William County, where Board Chairman Corey Stewart is pushing for a crackdown on illegal immigration similar to measures proposed in Arizona.

Dozens of supporters from United Construction Workers and Tenant and Workers United gave a standing ovation for the resolution, and pointed to Prince William County as an example “hateful” reform.

“What we’ve learned is that that doesn’t work,” said Lucero Beebe-Giudice, spokeswoman for Tenants and Workers United. “It destroys the community, it destroys the economy, and it breaks trust relationships between residents and their public servants.”

Tejada cited concerns, echoed by the police department, that people are less likely to report crimes for fear of having their immigration status checked. While the county seeks its withdrawal, Arlington is still legally required to forward fingerprints. County police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said that the Secure Communities program never changed the department’s enforcement policies.

“Our sheriff’s deputies and police officers have not and will not monitor, detain, interview, or investigate a person solely for the purpose of determining their immigration statues,” Police Chief Douglas Scott and Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur said.

The police department has found some benefits to the program, Nosal said. The fingerprint checks make sure individuals have properly identified themselves and can determine if they are wanted for other crimes.

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