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UPDATED: Arlington opts out of federal immigration enforcement program

The Arlington County Board has unanimously passed a resolution to opt out of the federal Secure Communities program, which uses the fingerprints of people in custody for other reasons to identify illegal immigrants.

"It is not the role of Arlington County law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws," the resolution states.

Last spring, Virginia officials signed up for the program, which shares any arrested individuals' fingerprints with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, without asking Arlington law enforcement's opinion, said board member Walter Tejada, the resolution's sponsor.

"We are not defending criminals," Tejada said at Tuesday's board meeting. However, he continued, "People who have not commited serious crimes...are finding themselves in this web" leading to deportation.

The resolution states that Arlington strives to be a diverse and inclusive community, with more than one-third of the population belonging to a minority group and one-quarter being born outside of the country.

While the county supports "meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform," it will also protect civil rights and liberties, the document states.

UPDATE 8:01 p.m.: We've received a response to this development from Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a major supporter of the Secure Communities program. "The program is called Secure Communities because that is exactly what it promotes. It is unfortunate that Arlington has decided not to participate in a program that deports illegal aliens who are convicted of crimes in our communities. Because this law enforcement initiative is targeting those committing crimes, it has strong bipartisan support, including from the Obama administration, which has said it wants the program operating nationwide by 2013," Gottstein said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur and County Chief of Police Douglas Scott have issued a joint statement, seemingly supporting the county's actions but also indicating it will not change how they have interacted with immigrants. Their statement:

"While we understand that the Secure Communities program has created some concerns, all residents and visitors have the right to County services and programs, including public safety protections. As Arlington County's chief law enforcement officers, it is not our desire or intent to enforce federal immigration law.

Nothing has changed in the way we interact with our immigrant residents. In our normal day-today work, our Sheriff's deputies and our police officers have not - and will not --monitor, detain, interview, or investigate a person solely for the purpose of determining their immigration status. Action by our law enforcement officers is based upon reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity, and we have a strong policy against racial profiling which prohibits our deputies and officers from taking action based solely on that individual's race, ethnicity, or national origin."

By Christy Goodman  | September 28, 2010; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  Arlington County  
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Does this mean that Arlington will only refuse to hand over criminals who break federal immigration laws or does it apply to all federal laws? For instance, if the Arlington police uncover a counterfeiting operation will they keep that information to themselves?

Posted by: morattico | September 28, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Will Arlington also stop participating in other multi-jurisdiction efforts, like Amber Alerts and sex offender registries?

Posted by: tomtildrum | September 28, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

"It is not the role of Arlington County law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws," the resolution states.
Yes it is. It is the role of American Law Enforcement to enforce the laws of the land. Even when they do not have the jurisdiction with them.. they should enforce the laws of the land.. and probably do. What else is happening here is important: the cost of the immigration law enforcement is high. The Feds should pay for it.. they haven't for years and they won't pay for it. That.. non payment should go see the supreme court on a rocket too.

Posted by: joelwisch | September 28, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

You like the way they are handling immigration and being soft? Keep voting Democrat. Which party is really for the American worker and taxpayers? The Republican party is (this year anyways).

Posted by: n8whit | September 28, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

"Soft" immigration is the best policy for the American taxpayer and worker. It is also by far the least painful way to avoid radical cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

Posted by: CesarSozei | September 29, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

So, now it's official - Arlington County, VA is officially an illegal alien sanctuary.

The Congress Critters representing Arlington County, VA must be dancing in the aisles now. With the County's cooperation, they can now funnel money stimulus funds to their favorite contractors who can hire illegal aliens without recorse under the protection of the county Board.

If these "favorite contractors" RFPs were revealed, labor quotes would be in line with hiring Americans. Now that they can replace Americans with cheap illegal labor at half the price, they can double the profits they put in their pockets.

Windfall all around! Can you say ca-ching?

Posted by: asmith1 | September 29, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

"We are not defending criminals," Tejada said at Tuesday's board meeting. However, he continued, "People who have not commited serious crimes...are finding themselves in this web" leading to deportation.


Hey genius, illegally crossing a national border is a seroius crime.

And I second those who asked about enforcement of counterfeiting, Amber alerts, sex offender registries, etc.

Posted by: Hk45 | September 29, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

"We are not defending criminals," Tejada said at Tuesday's board meeting. However, he continued, "People who have not commited serious crimes...are finding themselves in this web" leading to deportation."

W.T.F. do you think illegally entering this or any country is? It's a CRIME. If someone breaks in or sneaks in to your house tonight is that a crime? Will the police handle that?

Posted by: Onlywhatsright | September 29, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's a good test case. If other counties in Virginia decide not to opt out then we can compare. Does being a "sanctuary city" bring down wages and increase crime? We can really see now and if not then all those people who keep repeating those myths can shut their gobs. It's already the most liberal county in the state and - oh yeah, has the best median household income, best schools, best services... looks to me like the more liberal a place is, the better off the people who live there are.

Arlington is the state's sole saving grace and the only place in the state I would agree to live.

Posted by: mandrake | September 29, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

it's nice to know that Arlington County can pick and choose which laws to enforce and which ones to ignore. I wish the citizens of this country could choose which laws to follow as well. What a joke

Posted by: thenoggin | September 29, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

This statement from the article is not true at worst and extrememly misleading at best: federal Secure Communities program, which uses the fingerprints of people in custody for other reasons to identify illegal immigrants.

There is no such thing as a fingerprint database of illegal aliens. Think about it, just where would all of these illegal aliens stop off to give a set of fingerprints to put into the database. There is no database of "legal" aliens either. Checking fingerprints does not tell you if someone is illegal. So these are the scare tactics used by the people who oppose all immigration enforcement such as Mr Tejeda. Mr. Tejeda either purposely distorts the truth, lies, preaches propoganda, or he is not very well informed or lacks the capacity to read and understand simple English that is contained in the literature explaining Secure Communities.

Secure Communities only means that when someone is brought into a local jail on whatever state charge, his fingerprints are not only checked for criminal history and outstanding warrants, but also for outstanding immigration deportation warrants, prior immigration arrests, or if someone if has been previously deported (if that person is now back that is a federal felony crime punishable by 2-20 years in prison.) Violent criminals who serve their time in prison and are then deported often come back to the US. If they are picked up on a minor offense and brought into the jail then Secure Communities identifies them as an alien who was previously deported for having been in prison for rape, murder, robbery, etc. There are some who are identified who have already had all of their court process and been ordered to leave the country but they have flouted the law and remained in the US in violation of another federal felony law. Not many people would ever claim that a felony is not a serious crime, except Mr Tejeda who believes that there are good laws and bad laws and he will decide which ones that should or should not be enforced. That is a lot of power for one guy to have I think. Maybe we can all decide which laws we want to obey and not obey, or we could all ask Mr. Tejeda.

In any event, Secure Communities only catches those who have already been in trouble -- more than just being here illegally. Most eople who are caught in the US illegally are given a chance to leave the US on their own without being deported. When they fail to do so, then they have committed a felony crime - Title 8 United States Code 1253. Secure Communites does at times catch those people. Now in Arlington County, an alien who could otherwise be held under Federal law can leave the jail, and maybe get in a car drunk, molest a child, or rape or murder someone because Mr. Tejeda believes that he would rather give them that chance than not. But surely after they have committed a crime he is against, I am sure he will hope they are locked up, just not ever, ever deported.

Posted by: JakeMac24x | September 29, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry Arlington County citizens...the STATE of Virginia has authority over the only liberal county in the state and will be able to circumvent those a-holes on the county board. WTF is wrong those quivering pansies on the board? I will be publishing their addresses on signs, in Spanish of course, stating that these people on the board are ready to take in any and all illegals and feed them and let the illegals have their way with their children. I will also be ready to administer Virginia justice to this impending wave of violence and crime that will be swept in from Prince William and Louden counties. These board members are soo out of tune with reality; goto the Arlington County jail and look at the majority of the incarcerated; already illegals that will now get the turnstyle treatment. The jail will be full in the winter for sure since the illegals love three hots and a cot in the cold months...great to see that Arlington county residents will be housing and feeding Latin America while the rest of NOVA enjoys soo much less crime and expense. Morons; I guess the progressive disease is contagious across the Potomac.

Posted by: civilrightist | September 29, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Tejada said "People who have not commited serious crimes...are finding themselves in this web"

Who determines a 'serious crimes'? Does everybody who gets finger printed in Arlington commited a 'serious crime'. I thought that anyone who got arrested had their finger prints taken.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | September 29, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"upon reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity"

Again, the term is ILLEGAL alien, which denotes criminal activity.

Wonder if Walter might have a few relatives in town who aren't here on the up and up??

"In our normal day-today work"

Is that poor editing by the Post or by Arlington, try "day-to-day"

Posted by: BEEPEE | September 29, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Say what you will, Mr. Tejada. Arlington is now a Sanctuary County, and will soon be reaping all the benefits that implies. Any way to monitor the number of U-Haul trucks coming in from Prince William?

Posted by: ANCLvr | September 29, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

This is insane. Who are we worried about offending or alienating? If you are here legally you have nothing to worry about in dealing with the Police. Arlington is absoutely a sanctuary jurisdiction. We have one of the largest illegal immigrant polulaitons in Virginia. Why? because of policies like these. Walter Tejada is a disgrace. He should be be looking out for the rights of the people who are following the law. Instead, he aligns himslef with a block of largely hispanic immigrnts who are here illegally.

Posted by: jbryk1 | September 29, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Great! Now maybe some of the illegals here in Maryland will return your way.

Posted by: StLou | September 29, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Yes the republican John McCain and others supported Immigration Reform. What happened? My 401K went up, immigrants started working for companies and paying taxes, they packed English classes, they jumpstarted our economy to a degree I had never seened in my life time. I hope we have immigration reform soon. I'm tried of this economy.

Posted by: realisticaboutimmigration | September 29, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes, John McCain and other republicans supported immigration reform. What happened? During the debate immigrants started working for companies that collected taxes, they purchased homes, my 401k went up along with the economy. Please John McCain, do it again!

Posted by: realisticaboutimmigration | September 29, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

This makes me even more ashamed of living in Communist County. If only the General Assembly would rescue us from these boobs by changing our form of government! Twelve magisterial district supervisors and an elected mayor would be about right.

Posted by: JMosesBrowning | September 29, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

As a former Arlington County Deputy Sheriff in the days of J. Elwood Clements, we routinely referred alleged illegal immigrant arrestees to I.N.S., the Federal agency that was responsible for Immigation Enforcement, now known as I.C.E. We had an INS agent assigned to us that we contacted when they did not have ID, could not produce a "green" card and could not speak english. This is called Probable Cause. The INS agent would respond to the jail, conduct an interview of the detainee and then, if evidence existed, he would place a Federal Detainer on him which required the Sheriff's Dept. to notify INS before the subject was relased. INS would then make the rounds of all the local jails, once a month, with a prison type bus, pick up all there detainees and deport them. It was a "well oiled" machine before the US Supreme Court decided that illegal immigrants had certain unalienable rights.

Posted by: justus123 | September 29, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

This is unbelievable, and an insult to our nation of laws that these so called law enforcemet people will look the other way. If I were a resident of this county I would be up in arms.

Posted by: mark0004 | September 29, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Illegal immigration is illegal, hence the name. It raises costs for everyone else who has to support them and makes it difficult for those that want to enter legally.

Posted by: futbolclif | September 29, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What is a serious criminal offense. Is it for example, DUI? Is is identity theft? My brother was involved in an accident where a man driving more than 50 mph ran a red light and blew a .20. If he had been deported after his first DUI, he would not have hit my brother. For the record, this happened in New Jersey. A good friend of my mine had her purse stolen. The good part was that the criminal who stole her purse did not hurt her, but the bad part is that all ID's, drivers license, work ID, and so forth were stolen. She has spent a vast amount of time dealing with the ramifications of her ID being stolen. For example, the IRS came after her for her failure to pay taxes. In the first instance, I know for a fact that the person that hit my brother is an illegal immigrant who is still in the country and still driving. Scary is it not. In the second instance, there is a good possibility that some of the people using her ID's are illegal immigrants. My questions are DUI in Arlington Country a serious criminal offense and is using another persons ID in Arlington County a serious offense? The sad truth is that in the world of Walter Tejada maybe not.

Posted by: jeffreed | September 29, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

This is exactly why Arlington is such a great place to live. We are proud of our diversity. Arlington is as safe or safer than many other areas surrounding Wash-for instance, PG! Arlington will continue to set an example for the region--those immigration laws are disciminatory, particularly against lower-income minorities.

Posted by: arlingtonian6 | September 29, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

So they've finally turned Arlington into the definitive slave labor pool for DC-area contractors...

Agenda much, Mr. Tejada?

Posted by: a_concerned_uhmerikan | September 30, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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