Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid has notified Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that her office will no longer hold inmates past their release date without a court order, canceling an agreement under which the county held inmates whenever ICE requested.
“I am pleased with Sheriff Stacey Kincaid’s decision to take this step,” Fairfax County Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “The Sheriff and her Deputies operate the County jail and are not federal immigration officials.”
Local police and corrections agencies around the country have been pushing back against federal requests that they aid in apprehending and detaining undocumented immigrants. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Ramsey County sheriff’s officials notified ICE today that it would no longer house immigration detainees.
Being in the country illegally is a federal civil offense, not a local crime, and many civil libertarians and minority rights groups have criticized efforts to enlist local law enforcement in immigration matters. Besides taxing their resources, holding individuals who are not charged with a local offense opens local officials to litigation.
In Florida, officials earlier this month announced a new policy aimed at curbing the threat of lawsuits against sheriffs who hold individuals in jail after they have been released by the courts. ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said a new form would be used that transfers custody of inmates to ICE, reducing the jail’s role to simply housing the individual at ICE expense.
The new protocol is being rolled out in 17 Florida counties but civil rights advocates say the new agreement will still leave local sheriffs vulnerable to lawsuits.
“I think they can anticipate more litigation on this subject,” said Alyson Sincavage, a legislative associate for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Kincaid conveyed her decision to ICE officials in a meeting yesterday (Jan. 22) and also via a formal “Notice of Intent to Terminate” the Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA).
“We intend to comply with all federal obligations as they pertain to ICE. The current contract is not necessary for us to do this as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of localities in the Commonwealth have no contractual arrangement,” Kincaid said. “We found it expedient to no longer have an agreement that required us to extend our resources beyond these obligations. We remain committed to our mission and mandate.”
State law already requires sheriffs to determine the residency status of individuals who are arrested and brought to jail. During the booking process, fingerprints are automatically transmitted to a state database to which all local, state and national law enforcement agencies, including ICE, have access.
The official termination date of the IGSA will be May 23, 2018, following the required 120 days’ notice.