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Opinion: Commentary: Supporting Immigrant Families, Community
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Opinion: Commentary: Supporting Immigrant Families, Community

Comprehensive change — not one-time funding — needed to support Fairfax County immigrant families and community members.

Fairfax County residents in deportation proceedings are not guaranteed access to free legal counsel. According to Department of Justice data, such legal representation dramatically increases the likelihood that an individual will have a hearing, be released from detention, and be granted relief from deportation.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering limited, temporary, one-time funding for legal representation for county residents in deportation proceedings. Without also enacting a policy that ends the county’s voluntary collaboration with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), this proposal is merely a band-aid that would offer assistance to fewer than 1 percent of the people who need it. A band-aid on a wound that the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Stacey Kincaid deepen every day as they put more people into the arrest-to-deportation pipeline.

Currently, more than 11,500 county residents are in deportation proceedings. This is because Fairfax County voluntarily collaborates with ICE in the detention and deportation of its residents and visitors. This collaboration harms migrants residing in Fairfax County and weakens our community. Every day that county leadership fails to act, more people live in fear and more residents are detained. Data from Syracuse University’s TRAC program show that Fairfax County ranks 13th in the country for its compliance with voluntary detainer requests issued by ICE (view data directly at bit.ly/detainer-compliance-rates).

While funding for legal representation would be commendable, it’s not enough. By itself, this proposal alone offers more comfort to the politicians who want to appear to stand with our immigrant neighbors than it does to people vulnerable to those politicians’ policies. Real and lasting change will only come by ending the county’s voluntary collaboration with ICE.

In late 2017, attorneys working in concert with the Fairfax for All coalition drafted the Ordinance to Protect Equal Justice for All. This countywide policy, which would end this racist collaboration and create some equity for our immigrant neighbors, will:

  1. Prohibit the county from being involved in civil immigration enforcement;

  2. Limit the collecting and sharing of information with ICE;

  3. Expand the list of documents that are acceptable as proof of identity; and

  4. Establish permanent funding for legal representation for county residents in deportation proceedings.

The complete ordinance can be read at fairfaxforall.org/pledge.

It is long past time for Board Chairman Sharon Bulova, the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, and other officials to end the county’s voluntary collaboration with ICE. A collaboration that furthers the criminalization, incarceration, and deportation of valued Fairfax County families and community members.

Fairfax for All is a coalition of grassroots, civil rights, immigrant rights, and faith-based organizations dedicated to building sanctuary in Fairfax County. Visit fairfaxforall.org.