WASHINGTON – A new noncooperation policy by Prince William County, Virginia, has reversed years of public safety cooperation and threatens to endanger the public
The new policy bars the Prince William County Jail from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when officers lodge immigration detainers for individuals in local custody who are in violation of immigration law. Per the policy, the jail can only notify ICE of an impending release for individuals booked in on felony charges. If an individual is charged with a misdemeanor, ICE will not be notified, regardless of whether they have other serious criminal history or if they have international criminal histories that are not visible to local law enforcement.
"This deterioration of the relationship with Prince William County will certainly have public safety consequences for the people of the county," said Matthew Munroe, acting field office director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations Washington. "When law enforcement agencies work together, we put public safety first. Instead, like we've seen in Montgomery and Prince George counties in Maryland, when policies like this put politics first, it is a certainty that individuals who otherwise would have been safely transferred to ICE custody will be released to the street, in some cases reoffending. We've seen that the most likely victims of these offenses are those in the immigrant community."
Prince Willian County previously worked closely with ICE through the 287(g) program. The program allows specially trained jail employees to serve immigration detainers to individuals who have been booked into the jail on local charges if they have established probable cause that they are in violation of immigration law. This allowed the safe transfer of individuals into ICE custody where they could be enrolled in immigration proceedings.
Examples of cases where Prince William County cooperated with ICE which, under the new policy, will now result in the release of an individual include:
- Jose Guillermo Castillo Garcia was arrested by the Prince William County Police Department on Dec. 14, for misdemeanor driving without a license and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. Castillo, a citizen of El Salvador, is illegally present in the U.S. ICE previously removed him to his home country June 22, 2007 following previous convictions for felony forgery; felony driving while intoxicated, 3rd or subsequent offense; felony assault and battery of a police officer/firefighter; and felony eluding endanger persons or police car. On Jan. 16, a federal grand jury indicted Castillo for illegal reentry after removal, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. On March 5, Castillo pled guilty and was sentenced to ten months incarceration.
- Marvin Guzman Morales was arrested by the Prince William County Police Department on Aug. 26, 2019, for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, 2nd offense and misdemeanor revoked license. Guzman, a citizen of El Salvador, is illegally present in the U.S. ICE previously removed him to his home country on June 27, 2003, Nov. 18, 2015 and June 15, 2018 following previous convictions for felony grand larceny, burglary 4th degree, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, misdemeanor violation of a protective order and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, 2nd offense. On Oct. 14, ICE arrested Guzman at the Prince William County Adult Detention Center and transferred him directly to U.S. Marshals Service custody. On Nov. 7, a federal grand jury indicted Guzman for illegal reentry after removal, a felony. On Dec. 19, a United States District Court Judge sentenced Guzman to 6 months imprisonment. On March 13, Guzman completed his period of incarceration and he was removed to his home country June 25.
- Jesus Jaaziel Zamora was arrested by the Prince William County Police Department on Aug. 31, 2019, for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. Zamora, a citizen of Mexico, is illegally present in the U.S. ICE previously removed him to his home country Nov. 10, 2015 and Sep. 21, 2016 following convictions for misdemeanor public intoxication, misdemeanor revoked driver's license, misdemeanor failure to stop on an accident, misdemeanor petit larceny, misdemeanor false identification to a law enforcement officer, misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor obstruction of justice, misdemeanor disorderly conduct, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, and federal prosecution for misdemeanor illegal entry to the United States. On Nov. 13, a federal grand jury indicted Zamora for illegal reentry after removal, a felony. On Dec. 5, a United States District Court Judge sentenced him to 4 months imprisonment. On Jan. 14, ICE removed Zamora to his home country.
In addition to these cases from Prince William County, similar policies in neighboring jurisdictions have led to tragic outcomes, including a recent case in Baltimore where two individuals implicated in the murder of a 16-year-old girl had previously been the subject of ICE detainers that were not honored.
Under federal law, ICE has the authority to lodge immigration detainers with law enforcement partners who have custody of individuals arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens. The detainer form asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE in advance of release and to maintain custody of the alien for a brief period of time so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency's custody. Yet, across the United States, several jurisdictions refuse to honor detainers and instead choose to willingly release criminal offenders back into their local communities where they are free to offend.
Sanctuary Policies Put Public Safety at Risk
When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, it negatively impacts public safety. Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations. A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets, the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals who would not have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail. Additionally, once these criminals are out on the street, confirming their whereabouts is often time consuming and resource intensive. Many of our arrest targets are seasoned criminals who are savvy about eluding law enforcement.