ICE officials barred from speaking at Fairfax County's public safety committee meeting

There are questions about why the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors invited Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a meeting on law enforcement and then told them they would not be allowed to speak. Now, top ICE officials and a Fairfax County board member said it never should have happened.

ICE said it was invited a week ago to speak at the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday. An assistant director for ICE said she was prepared to offer a briefing about ICE's efforts to enforce immigration law and apprehend illegal immigrants who are committing crimes. Part of that presentation was also going to include information about a program called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement or VOICE, which supports victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

However, once ICE officials went to the meeting, ICE was told that it would not be allowed to give its presentation. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova went ahead with the meeting without allowing ICE officials to talk.

"Yes, it was disappointing, but I think we are looking forward. We are not looking back," said ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez. "At the end of the day, we have to have a conversation, an open and honest conversation about the effects of illegal immigration. They are real, they are happening in our community and they are happening in Fairfax County."

Board supervisor Pat Herrity said denying ICE to speak at the meeting was the wrong decision.

"I think there were certain members of the board that just didn't want to hear what they had to say and it's sad day in Fairfax when we can't have open and honest discussion about an issue that is as important to our people and the immigrant community as is gang violence," Herrity said.

Herrity said information provided to him by law enforcement shows from Jan. 2014 to Oct. 2017 that there were 49 homicides in Fairfax County and 17 of them involved gang-affiliated suspects. That amounts to roughly 35 percent of homicides being connected to gang activity fueled by illegal immigration.

In a statement, Bulova wrote in part:

"Since VOICE's mission (giving voice to victims of crimes by illegal immigrants), while admirable, was not germane to the subject of this meeting. I asked they not be a part of the discussion. ICE then presented us with an ultimatum - hear from all of us or none of us. ICE representatives chose instead to sit in the audience."

ICE officials said they hope to come back to Fairfax County to finally give their presentation.