FAIRFAX, Va. - The Fairfax County Sheriff's Office said it is terminating an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will no longer hold inmates wanted by the federal agency past their release date.
Starting on May 23, the sheriff's office will no longer honor requests to detain individuals with a detention order unless there is a corresponding criminal detainer issued by a court.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid said the department no longer needed to have an agreement that required it to extend its resources.
"I am pleased with Sheriff Stacey Kincaid's decision to take this step," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova in a news release. "The Sheriff and her Deputies operate the County jail and are not federal immigration officials."
However, Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz is concerned this could put students at risk and said the abrupt shift in policy could spell danger, not only for the community, but for school campuses across the county.
“They had to enact and take action to break the relationship with the federal government and for the life of me I can't understand, not only for the adult population, but for the children in our schools – girls who are potentially subject to sex trafficking issues,” Schultz said. “Everything that we are trying to educate and protect children about, this seems to fly in the face of.”
Fairfax County Public Schools is the tenth-largest school district in the country and reportedly has the sixth-largest population for undocumented minors.
Schultz said she was blindsided by the new policy that could put a strain on the school district's efforts to curb gang violence. She also said the elimination of the agreement could potentially release criminals who have ICE detention orders.
“That's an inexplicable, right now, position to hold that I really do think needs to come clean in terms of the thought process that went behind that and the potential risks,” she said. “Here we are in a pattern up and down the Eastern Seaboard that goes from here all the way up to Long Island of an increase in MS-13 and other gang activity, and you have people cheering on breaking the relationship with the federal government and potentially releasing people who have federal detention orders under ICE. I don't understand it.”
ICE said in a statement:
“ICE and Fairfax County remain committed to working together to protect public safety and will continue to work together to ensure the safe and orderly transfer of removable aliens to ICE custody pursuant to immigration detainers.
“ICE maintains that immigration detainers serve as a legally-authorized request, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely, to continue to maintain custody of an alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes.”
Although ICE and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office will no longer have a contractual agreement in place to house ICE detainees, the federal law enforcement agency insists this will not impact them from working together.
The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office reportedly had more than 600 people held in jail and then transferred to ICE custody in 2017 – more than double compared to 2016.