Fairfax, VA – ACLU People Power Fairfax and CASA, the Mid-Atlantic’s largest immigrant and working families membership organization, applaud the release on June 19 of Fairfax Police General Order 604 on Immigration Status, new rules that will sharply curtail local police activities that facilitate the deportation of County residents. These changes will help address a crisis of deportation; over 12,000 Fairfax residents are in pending deportation proceedings, three times more than in either Manhattan or Philadelphia. Both legal experts and local residents who had experienced police misconduct have been fighting for these changes for years. Together they celebrate the leadership of Board Chair Jeff McKay and Supervisor John Foust in leading discussions to restructure how the County’s police force treats immigrants and look forward to working with Police Chief Roessler on their implementation.

At the same time, our groups harbor no illusions that these changes are a cure all for disparate treatment of people of color in Fairfax. The recent use of violence by a white Fairfax officer against a black resident and deaths at the hands of police across the country demonstrate how much work remains to be done.

“I was driving to work and I ended up in jail after a routine traffic stop for not using my turn signal. My story is one of the numerous stories of immigrants and people of color being treated unjustly by the police. We are excited about this new order, but obviously more needs to be done so that our community won’t be afraid of being assaulted or dying at the hands of the police,” said Nerbir Rodriguez, Fairfax resident, and CASA member.

“The fight for equal justice and police accountability for people of color is scarcely over, but we can celebrate this progress,” said Diane Burkley Alejandro, Lead Advocate for ACLU People Power Fairfax. “The new General Order on Immigration removes a significant barrier to police interaction for the 30% of Fairfax residents who are immigrants, including the many citizens and green card holders with undocumented family members. Covid-19 makes it all the more critical that they feel safe during encounters with the police and other first responders without fear of ICE involvement.”

Under the new General Order 604 on Immigration Status, Fairfax police will not voluntarily engage in or facilitate ICE civil enforcement. Cooperation may occur during criminal investigations only.

Specifically, this means that unless otherwise required by federal or state law, a judicial warrant or court order:

1. Judicial criminal warrant required. Police officers will not take any action against an individual based on an ICE administrative civil warrant or deportation order. Such warrants have not been independently reviewed by the courts and are often issued in error. Many people with deportation orders received them without even being advised of their court date or otherwise being given a chance to fight their case.

2. Inquiries and voluntary disclosure prohibited. Police officers are expressly prohibited from asking about or disclosing a person’s citizenship or immigration status. They also are not allowed to voluntarily disclose other personal information that ICE could use to locate someone.

3. Reducing custodial arrests for misdemeanors. For traffic offenses or other misdemeanors, officers can decide whether to take someone into custody or just issue them a summons. Under the revised rule, officers can no longer consider immigration warrants in making that decision. Over 70% of the people ICE was allowed to pick up from the Fairfax jail had been arrested on minor charges.

4. Identification documents expanded. When an officer requests identification from a person, documents other than a Virginia driver’s license will be accepted. Documents issued by foreign governments, such as a passport or matricula consular, are permitted, as well as other forms of identification. A valid driver’s license is still required to drive a car.

With the police policy finalized, advocates look forward to working with the Board of Supervisors to pass a countywide Trust Policy, protections that would apply the GO 604 reforms to other county agencies and provide other critical protections for the many immigrant families that each day make Fairfax stronger.

“Because trust is always earned, we look forward to continue working with Chairman McKay and the Fairfax Board of Supervisors to codify and expand on the police protection to ensure that all agencies in the County are proactively building trust with the immigrant community and the broader community especially given that black and brown communities trust is something that the police department will continue to have to earn by truly serving our communities,” said CASA Virginia Director Luis Aguilar.

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ACLU People Power Fairfax is a grassroots organization that advocates for equal justice for all members of our community including undocumented immigrants. There are over 1600 People Power volunteers in Fairfax County. While we work closely with ACLU Virginia, our group is independent and its positions reflect the views of our members, not those of the Virginia affiliate. We are a member of the Virginia Coalition for Immigration Rights (VACIR). For further information, contact Diane Burkley Alejandro at dburkleyalejandro@hotmail.com, Twitter @PeoplePowerFfx or FB @peoplepowerffx.

With over 100,000 lifetime members, CASA is the largest immigrant rights organization in the Mid-Atlantic region.  From offices in Falls Church and Woodbridge, CASA provides critical direct services and organizes Latinos and immigrants to advance greater rights for immigrant families in Virginia.  Follow us at @CASAforAll