After initially being suspended from the police force for following the orders of a warrant from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a Fairfax County officer will return to duty Friday, the police department announced.
“After receiving an update from our Internal Affairs Bureau, I have concurred with the procedural policy recommendation to return the officer … to full duty on Friday,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement. “We have one of the best police forces in the U.S. and I have confidence that our officer will represent us well throughout his career. Our internal administrative investigation continues as prescribed by policy.”
Fairfax County is one of many localities in the United States that instructs its police officers that they are not allowed to comply with federal immigration officials in certain situations. The police department does not allow officers to take a person into custody solely based on a warrant from ICE; rather, the officer is allowed to serve the warrant only if that person is taken into custody for another violation of the law.
The man who was taken into custody was wanted by ICE for failing to appear for a deportation hearing. He has been released with an ankle monitor and is awaiting a hearing.
The news release sent out by the police department said that officers are told in the academy and in-service training that they are not to enforce or detain for such administrative warrants. The department claims these warrants are civil violations of immigration law and that the department has no authority to enforce these laws.
However, most police departments in the state and the country allow officers to comply with these warrants. A district court in Virginia has also ruled on the matter. In Rios V. Jenkins, the court said that Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins was in his legal right to enforce ICE warrants.
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has Fairfax County on its list of states, cities and counties that provide a “sanctuary” for illegal immigration, which means they have one or more policies that the organization believes obstructs federal immigration enforcement. CIS is a non-profit that advocates for lower immigration numbers and has close ties to the Trump administration.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for CIS, told The Center Square that sanctuary localities would honor warrants for any other reason, but that they ignore immigration warrants for political reasons. She said there is no constitutional problem with the warrants and that most police departments honor them.
To combat sanctuary policies, the Trump administration has withheld some federal law enforcement funding from sanctuary cities, which Vaughan said is a good approach. She said, while some argue that Fairfax’s policy of not cooperating with federal officials is illegal, the courts have not settled the matter. The only way this will be settled, she said, is through an act of Congress or a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Fairfax County Police Department declined to provide further comment when reached by The Center Square.