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Immigration Advocates: Election Result Shows Shift on ICE Cooperation


Should local law enforcement officials help enforce federal immigration law?

The recent election may demonstrate a shift in one high-profile case.

Only two jails in Virginia voluntarily agree to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials do their jobs — the ones in Culpeper and Prince William counties.

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says advocates for the 287 (g) program see it as a way to deal with what they see as the threat of undocumented immigrants. “Communities that get involved in that program have very heavy immigrant populations, and they believe that those immigrant populations are a weight on their social services.”

Culpeper County’s program is currently being challenged in the courts by the ACLU. And the future of Prince William County’s program may be facing new scrutiny after the election, which saw the election of a new prosecutor who has been critical of the program.

Claire Gastanaga at the ACLU of Virginia says the regional authority that oversees the jail in Prince William should stop deputizing local employees to enforce federal immigration law.  “We hope that the message has been sent by the electorate that they want their locality to stop volunteering to do the federal government’s job and to focus on public safety in Prince William for Prince William people.”

Democrats may have taken control of the state government. But whether local jails voluntarily agree to participate with federal immigration authorities is a decision that’s made one jail at a time.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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