Arlington County, Virginia, has released a framework for updating policies around undocumented immigrants in the hopes of sowing trust in the county government.
County Board President Matt de Ferranti said the new policies look to reaffirm access to county services for undocumented immigrants. They will also likely change how local law enforcement works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
De Ferranti told WTOP that the framework covers three areas.
The first is protecting the information of immigrants. “Unless legally required to, which is very limited,” de Ferranti said, “we’re not requesting immigrant status.”
Second, the framework reaffirms that all residents, regardless of immigration status, will have access to county services.
Most notably, the board could change the policy of when county police contact ICE.
The current code says that Arlington police should only contact ICE under the following circumstances:
- The subject has been arrested for a felony.
- The subject has been arrested for a terrorism-related offense or is suspected of involvement in terrorism.
- The subject has been arrested for suspected trafficking of other undocumented immigrants.
- The arresting officer finds through a check that there is an active ICE detainer; that officer must notify a supervisor of their intention to make an arrest.
- The subject is suspected of criminal street gang activity, which must be be confirmed by the Gang Unit.
Under the proposed framework, ICE would not be contacted after a non-violent felony charge.
“If it’s minor shoplifting that could reach the level of a felony — because the felony threshold is still too low, in my view and in our view, in Virginia — that might be a case where we would not raise it to the level of Immigrant and Customs Enforcement,” said de Ferranti. “That issue is really about focusing on guardianship and safety for everyone in our community, rather than distracting or catching up individuals who might have shoplifted.”
The board president said the aim of the framework is to “make sure that we’re not in the business of enforcing, in any cases, federal immigration law, which is the responsibility of the federal government. We want to … be even tighter and more narrow, so that we’re not inadvertently, through our processes, getting any individuals caught up with our system unless federal and state law require that we do so.”
De Ferranti said he and the board decided to look at updating these policies after speaking with immigrant advocacy groups and Arlington Police Chief Charles Penn, who de Ferranti said “wants to tighten up and really focus our processes on guardianship.”
The board president will likely use Fairfax County’s Trust policy as a model moving forward.
The Arlington County Board will accept feedback over the next month, with plans to update the rules by the end of the year.