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September 28, 2017

The ACLU of Virginia today expressed its concerns over Culpeper County Sheriff's decision to participate in the 287g program, which would enable the Sheriff's office to participate with ICE in enforcing federal immigration laws at the cost of local taxpayers' money. In a letter sent to Culpeper Sheriff Scott H. Jenkins, the ACLU of Virginia pointed out his fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the 287g program and how it works, and clarified to the Sheriff his office's responsibilities under state and federal law.

The letter emphasized that the 287g program is specifically about enforcement of civil, not criminal, violations of federal immigration law. "The program is not just about 'criminal aliens' either from the point of view of alleged immigration violations (which may not be criminal), or from the point of view of alleged violations of state or local law for which they may have been arrested but not yet tried or convicted, and, thus, are not criminals until proven so," stated the letter. Without the 287g authority, the Sheriff's office has no authority to enforce civil immigration law and very limited authority to enforce criminal violations of immigration law. Therefore, volunteering to do so is a significant departure from the office's mission to keep its community safe and is much more than a matter of paperwork.

If the 287g application is accepted, certain deputies would be trained to become "immigration officers" under the supervision and control of ICE officers, and delegated authority to enforce civil immigration laws in Culpeper County Jail. The letter went on to list what these "immigration officers" are allowed to do, from identifying and processing immigration violations to issuing immigration detainers and transporting detainees, many of whom have no criminal record, to ICE's detention centers, 

The ACLU-VA also reminded Sheriff Jenkins that volunteering to perform the federal government’s job of enforcing civil immigration law will impose significant additional costs that must be borne by local taxpayers and will not be reimbursed by the federal government. The individuals serving as "immigration officers" may or may not have time to perform other duties. "If they do not, there is a cost in lost productivity of having people on your staff unavailable to do local functions because they are working for ICE," stated the letter. In addition to the personnel cost, the Sheriff's office will be responsible for other equipment cost and administrative supplies, and they would not be reimbursed for detaining people for immigration purposes on behalf of ICE.

State law already requires Sheriff's offices to check the immigration status of every person admitted to custody at local jails. No state or federal law requires any further action on the part of local sheriff's offices relative to the immigration status of any person in jail. Volunteering with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws will erode trust between law enforcement and the community, damaging a constructive relationship vital to effective community policing and making us less safe.

The ACLU of Virginia urge Sheriff Jenkins to withdraw his 287g application, and not to volunteer his department to take on the federal government’s job of enforcing immigration laws, particularly at a time when the laws themselves are badly broken and in need of comprehensive reform.

You can read the full letter in the attachment below.