Prince William County Set to End Agreement with Federal Immigration Officials

Jun 19, 2020

Should local law enforcement officials carry out federal immigration enforcement? Fewer local governments in Virginia are willing to enter into agreements with the federal government.

For many years, Prince William County was on the vanguard of cracking down on undocumented immigrants. But now things have changed. Voters elected a new Board of Supervisors last year, and now the county is ditching its agreement to have county law-enforcement officials working with the feds to deport the undocumented.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg with the Legal Aid Justice Center says that decision has been more than a decade in the making.

Credit ICE

“Prince William for a long time had been the symbol of anti-immigrant animus in Virginia," he explains. "And what this means is that hatred against immigrants and persecution of immigrants is really no longer sort of a mainstream position within Virginia policy anymore.”

There was a time when other local governments were interested. Loudoun and Fauquier counties expressed interest, but then a groundswell of opposition turned the tide. Now only one local government in Virginia has an agreement with ICE: Culpeper.

Town Councilman Jon Russell says the program, known as 287(g), keeps Culpeper safe. 

“It’s a way to partner with the federal government in law enforcement and making sure that we keep our communities safe. I don’t see a downside to it," says Russel. "To us, it’s a win-win situation: we’re able to weed out the bad actors and send them home.”

The Supreme Court of Virginia is currently considering a challenge to that Culpeper agreement with the feds brought by the ACLU. It argues the sheriff doesn’t have the authority to enter into that kind of an agreement.

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