Data released on the eve of a consequential vote by the Prince William-Manassas jail board shows that 579 people booked into the local jail have been deported from the U.S. since 2018 under the county’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – including 125 who had not yet been convicted of a crime or had their criminal charges dropped.
The 11-member jail board is slated to decide Wednesday evening whether to renew the county’s ICE agreement, known as 287(g). The program, which is voluntary, has been a point of contention for area residents and officials since it was first signed by county officials in 2007. Under the agreement, local sheriff's deputies in the jail work as ICE agents, giving ICE direct access to local inmates.
Supporters of the agreement, including the Jail Board Chairman Sheriff Glen Hill, say the program helps bolster public safety in the county. Detractors say the agreement was approved by local politicians to intimidate the Latino community in Prince William County and has resulted in family separations and deportations.
Prince William County and Culpeper County are the only localities in Virginia that currently hold 287(g) agreements with ICE.
Data released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tuesday shows that 579 people booked into Prince William-Manassas jail have been deported since 2018 under agreement. But details about the criminal charges that led to their eventual deportations was not disclosed.
According to the data, 454 of the deportations were for people who had been convicted of criminal charges, but ICE offered no information about the severity of those charges, for example whether they were misdemeanors or felonies.
An additional 118 people – about 20% -- were deported after being transferred to ICE from the jail with only pending criminal charges, meaning they had not been found guilty of a crime at the time of their deportations.
Another seven people were deported since 2018 under a category listed as “other immigration violators.” That category refers to people who had their criminal charges dropped, dismissed or were found not guilty but were still deported, according to ICE spokesperson Kaitlyn Pote.
The types of criminal charges that can lead to resident being subject to an ICE detainer and eventually deported has been part of the continuous debate surrounding the county’s 287(g) agreement. Some local elected officials have claimed that the program results only in the detainment and removal of those who have committed serious crimes, while local activists and residents claim the program sweeps up anyone who is booked into the jail who is a non-citizen, regardless of their charge.
ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Executive Associate Director Henry Lucero said Monday that those who commit lesser, or misdemeanor, crimes “may not always be detained” under the jail’s 287(g) program. Lucero, using an example, said that someone charged with driving without a license “probably would not be detained by ICE.”
It has been difficult to ascertain whether that is true, however, because details about individual cases were not disclosed. Pote said Tuesday that ICE could not release the list of names of those who have been deported under the program in Prince William County, which would enable anyone to look up what crimes were committed by those who were deported.
In the past, ICE has refused to release specific information about people subject to ICE detainers because immigration warrants are civil -- not criminal -- and therefore not a matter of public record.
Asked what would happen if the 287(g) was not extended in Prince William, Lucero said that undocumented people booked in the jail could potentially “slip through the cracks” and be released back into the community.
This does not align with current Virginia law, however, which requires officers at all Virginia jails to determine the citizenship of everyone booked at any Virginia jail. Even without a 287(g) agreement, jail officers at all Virginia jails are required to “make an immigration alien query” to ICE for any person born in a country other than the United States, who is a citizen of a country other than the United States, or if a their country of birth or citizenship is unknown,” the law states.
Lucero said ICE operations in Prince William County will increase if the 287(g) agreement is allowed to expire because ICE will no longer have a presence in the local jail. Lucero said current agreement allows ICE to “safely transfer” those held at the jail to ICE custody, but that will no longer be the case if the agreement comes to an end.
Luis Aguilar, Virginia State Director for CASA in Virginia, a group that is advocating for an end to 287(g), said comments from ICE officials stating that more ICE operations will begin within the county if the 287(g) agreement is ended is an “intimidation tactic.”
Asked to respond to Lucero’s comments, Aguilar said it was “a sign that they are so afraid to lose this program which was created to target our communities. That’s why they take the route of intimidation.”
CASA de Virginia has held rallies calling for an end the agreement over the last week and will hold another outside the jail on Wednesday evening ahead of the jail board meeting. The organization has questioned why the meeting will be held virtually and will not allow in-person or virtual public comment. Instead, the jail board is taking written comment only.
Meanwhile, ICE will give a 30-minute presentation to the jail board about the 287(g) agreement, according to the meeting's agenda.
Aguilar said Hill, the chairman of the jail board, has “shown a complete lack of transparency” in addressing the meeting's format. Aguilar raised concerns that the meeting will be “heavily influenced” by ICE and will not hear the voices of community members who have been impacted by the program.
The jail board meeting be held virtually and will begin at 6:00 p.m. The meeting can be viewed via this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2UPCuCUvAvyrOLM3YedW1w
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors appointed three new members to the 11-member jail board on May 20. They include Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st, a longtime critic of 287(g) who has said she will "definitely vote to let it expire."
The supervisors also appointed Tracey Lenox, a defense attorney who will lead the county's new public defenders' office, as well as local NAACP President Cozy Bailey.
The other jail board members include: Hill, Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth, Clerk of the Circuit Court Jacqueline Smith, County Executive Chris Martino, Director of Office of Criminal Justice Services Steven Austin, Prince William County Police Chief Barry Barnard, City of Manassas Police Chief Doug Keen and Manassas resident Lisa Climer.
It is not known which way the board will vote on the matter, but it was confirmed Tuesday that Raul Torres, the executive director of the Prince William County Human Rights Office, will serve as an alternate for Martino during the meeting.
Torres did not say whether he would vote to end the agreement. But Torres said he will vote “through an equity lens,” and that he will take into account all the residents of Prince William County.
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