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Monday, March 13, 2017

Immigration policy has huge impact on local community

Government leaders and representatives of nonprofit organizations are reaching out to calm fears following the Trump Administration’s hard-line approach to immigrants and travelers, which is encouraging a rising tide of hate crimes.

Panelists at March 11 forum hosted by the Fairfax County NAACP at the Kings Park Library spoke about how children are afraid to go to school and parents are worried they could be picked up  at any time by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

During the Obama Administration, ICE focused on individuals convicted of crimes; now ICE agents are detaining anyone they find who happens to be undocumented.

The moderator, Larry Bussey, legal redress chair for the local NAACP chapter, asked Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova whether the county is a “sanctuary city,” noting that there has been conflicting information on that.

Bulova said the Board of Supervisors is working on a resolution stating that “we are a welcoming county that values diversity.”

“There is no legal definition of sanctuary city,” Bulova said. “It means different things to different people.” President Trump has issued an executive order threatening to defund sanctuary cities.

ICE raids

“Fairfax County cooperates with the federal government when there are criminal activities. What we will never do is turn our police officers into ICE agents,” Bulova said. “It is essential for people to trust the police and not be afraid to report something or ask for help.”

That trust is important, said Deputy Police Chief Tom Ryan. Child car seat check events usually draw large crowds but a recent one in Herndon was sparsely attended because people thought it was an ICE trap, he said.

The Fairfax County Police Department does cooperate with ICE and other law enforcement agencies, Ryan said, but “we do not participate in general immigration enforcement. We do not go on raids or sweeps,” and police officers never ask about a person’s immigration status and “never take someone into custody based on their immigration status.”

“There is true fear in our community,” said Sindy Benavides, national director of civic engagement and community mobilization at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

“Before you left your house, did you have luggage ready? When you got into your car, were you fearful of being stopped and never see your children again. Were you fearful to give your address?” Those are the kinds of questions immigrant parents face every day, Benavides said.

The recent ICE raids outside a homeless shelter created a climate of panic and fear, she said. “Some children are still not going to school, and parents are fearful of being stopped on the way to school.”

LULAC has been hosting know-your-rights sessions for families to they will be prepared if ICE agents come to their house or raid a store while they are shopping. People should know they have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer even if they don’t have legal status, Benavides said.

They also need to ensure someone has power of attorney, so that person can take care of their children and personal assets if they are detained or deported.

If people see an ICE incident, they need to pay attention and record it, Benavides said. During a recent ICE raid in Annandale, the description of what ICE said happened is different from what witnesses reported. ICE was looking for particular people, but detained others who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

According to Bulova, Gov. Terry McAuliffe told ICE not to come to places where people are seeking help, like hypothermia shelters, schools, and churches.

“ICE has the authority to do that,” Ryan said. “They operate on their own. We have no control over that.”

Safety at school

Bussey pushed panelist Karen Corbett Sanders, a member of the Fairfax County School Board (Mount Vernon) on why the school system didn’t send a memo to all parents saying their children are safe in school.

Some principals did issue such statements. Sanders indicated she would ask the superintendent to do that, too.

“We felt like that’s the statement we make repeatedly every day,” Sanders said. Fairfax County Public Schools has a strong antidiscrimination and antibullying policy, and the schools have parent liaisons who speak students’ languages and school resource officers who develop mentoring relationships with students.

FCPS’ Immigrant Family Reunification program provides training and support for staff so they can help immigrant families. “We’re very committed to making sure we have the resources to assist these families,” Sanders said. “It’s in our best interest to educate every child.”

“When parents register children for school, we do not ask about their immigration status,” said Robin Stern Hamby, family engagement specialist with FCPS.

Many newcomers are not acculturating as quickly as immigrant students in the past, Hamby said. Many of these children – from Central America, West Africa, and the Middle East – have not been with their parents for a long time. More than 2,000 unaccompanied minors have enrolled in FCPS schools in the past few years.

“Children are scared; we are hearing that a lot,” Hamby said. “We are trying to help them feel safe and protected.” Parent liaisons are helping them adjust and reconnect with their families. Her office has published activity books in several languages to help children understand why their parents had to leave them behind.

State actions

Del. Scott Surovell said several of the bills in the General Assembly that he supported – including measures to add hate crimes to the state’s antidiscrimination law and to allow residents to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status – were killed in committee.

Several anti-immigrant bills that were passed, such as a measure to allow the police to hold people picked up by ICE for an indefinite period, are likely to be vetoed by the governor.

Noting that some jurisdictions hold people for 72 hours in jail at the request of ICE, Steve Levinson, president of the board of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it is unconstitutional to keep people in jail after they have finished serving their sentence, unless there is a warrant.

“I share your concern. I would be extremely concerned if someone who completed their sentence was held without a warrant,” Bulova said. That is something the county doesn’t have control over, however, she said; it’s a policy set by Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, an elected official who does not report to the Board of Supervisors.

Kincaid, who was not at the forum, assured the group in a text to Surovell that Fairfax County does not hold people beyond their sentence without a warrant.

Hate crimes

While there has been an increase in hate crimes, there have always incidents like the recent desecration of graves in Jewish cemeteries, Levinson said. What is new is “there is no fear of retribution. People are openly saying things that in the past would have been condemned instantly.”

“Are we going to be governed by fear or are we going to be governed by American values?” said Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the board of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center.

Trump’s revised travel ban, which Jaka referred as the “Muslim ban 2.0,” has a “chilling effect,” he said. “We want to stop terrorism and violent extremism,” but this needs to be put into perspective. Many more people were killed by right-wing extremists than Muslim terrorists in the United States, and nearly 10,000 people are killed each year by drunk drivers.

The climate of “fear mongering and paranoia” has led to more bullying, threats, and assaults against American Muslims in schools, Jaka said. There’s been a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims, but there has also been a rise in hate crimes against blacks, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs.

“We have to figure out how to counter this,” he said, noting there is cause for hope, citing efforts like the interfaith Shoulder to Shoulder campaign dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment.

“We must engage fully with the government,” Jaka said. “At the same time, we must advocate for our rights and we must have compassion.” 


  1. "ICE was looking for particular people, but detained others who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

    There is no "right place" for illegals. They're subject to arrest and detention wherever they are. Their only right is to a hearing before an immigration judge.

    1. What the US Government NEEDS to do, is stop giving citizenship to children just because they're born here. At least ONE of the child's parents should be at least a legal resident in order for their child to be givien citizenship. So many illegal parents with legal children.

    2. Trump discussed doing exactly that in 2015. I haven't heard him say anything about it recently though. Here's the problem: In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States, even if the parents are here illegally. In order to get around this ruling, Trump would either have to convince the Supreme Court to change its mind or propose a constitutional amendment revoking automatic citizenship based on birth. Candidly, I don't see either option as having much chance of success.

  2. I’m getting really “scared” of unrepentant tax hikes, the ongoing degradation of large swathes of the county, cuts to services that solid, middle-class tax-paying folk use, and a litany of other things that the BOS is foisting upon us in service of their “welcoming” policies.

  3. I recently learned that Fairfax County's outmigration is larger than its in migration. It appears that plenty of hard working taxpayers are tired of Fairfax County's tax policies and quality of life degredation.

    1. Where did you get this information? Can you cite a source?

  4. Thank you Ellie Ashford for this was a great detailed report about the meeting. I really hope that this will help put at ease those that in living in fear in our community.

    It is sad that we are now living in a society where "there is no fear of retribution" when we feel entitled to make our neighbors feel less than humans.

  5. While I understand that many of these people are trying for a better life, there are many people worldwide, who would like a better life, but do not have the benefit of walking across our border. If I understand it correctly, the US immigration policies were specially written so that no one group can dominate immigration. This was taken from the American Immigration Council web site:

    "In addition to the numerical limits placed upon the various immigration preferences, the INA also places a limit on how many immigrants can come to the United States from any one country. Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed seven percent of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single fiscal year. This is not a quota to ensure that certain nationalities make up seven percent of immigrants, but rather a limit that is set to prevent any immigrant group from dominating immigration patterns to the United States."

    By allowing large numbers of people to illegally immigrate from a small number of countries, we are discriminating against all of the other immigrants from other countries, since a disproportionate number will be from Latin America. We are also allowing our institutions of government to be swayed. Again if I understand it correctly, the limits were created so that no one immigration group can influence the policies of the United States, simply because they have larger numbers. This has already happened, as evidenced by all of the groups created to lobby on behalf of the Latin American population. One was mentioned in this article – LULAC.

    If someone can speak to the dangers of having too many people from a small number of countries immigrating, whether legal or not, I would appreciate it. I think that we all need a better education on this, myself included. Perhaps this would help us form better opinions on whether our government’s current policy of looking the other way when it comes to illegal immigration is threatening all of our futures.

  6. The Blog living up to "politics (with a progressive viewpoint)." Definitely feel compassion for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants. However, enforcing the rule of law is an absolute necessity to maintain order in a civilized country. Can you imagine if individuals or municipalities decided they would disregard the enforcement of whatever laws they disagreed with? And again people completely convolute the issue of legal and illegal immigration. We are by far the most generous nation on earth when it comes to legal immigration. And while there are gray areas to immigration enforcement, the US like all countries has right to national sovereignty, to claim otherwise is simply wrong.

    1. Agreeing. The plight of the Dreamers may be an edge case that needs to be considered. On the one hand why should they be penalized for the lawbreaking of their parents? On the other hand, what about the Dreams of the inner-city kids who now must face diminished employment prospects due in part to competition from people who are here illegally?

      Don't these American Dreams matter also?

    2. Ah! unlike your crazy business below, this is good! you see that there is a gray area, things are tough and figuring out a way ahead isn't as clear as it can be. Sucks to punish kids because their parents did something illegal, right? I'll admit I even don't know what to do about it, as someone here said once, it's about finding the right balance between compassion and fairness - and it's not an easy decision.

    3. I didn't vote for Trump, but his policy of cracking down on illegal immigration nevertheless has a great deal of appeal to me. However, like some of the other posters, I don't have any desire to see Dreamers deported to a country they can't even remember. Even Trump seems hesitant to go that far. So, let's give Dreamers a break and allow them to stay. It's time to let them plan their futures in something other than an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

  7. "Several anti-immigrant bills that were passed" Wrong. These bills are anti-illegal-immigrant. There is a difference. Why does the Annandale Blog (a.k.a. Ellie Ashford) oppose respecting out nation's laws?

    If you aren't breaking the law, there is no need to be afraid.

    1. Ah yes. Ellie doesn't respect our nation's laws. Because she takes a liberal view when writing her independent blog and leans a bit more on the compassion/left side. Clearly no respect for our nation's laws. Probably a criminal. Should probably do something about it. Don't you have teenagers on your lawn to yell at?

  8. Whoa Annandale Citizen! No need to attack the author. I'm sure you've been watching the news and there is a big push for anti immigration. The conversation at a nation scale is not focused on legal vs illegal.

    We can debate this issue to our hearts content, to even include why is it a crime vs a lesser offense... But that's not going to change anyone's mind on this forum.

  9. It is amazing that we are more concerned about whether ILLEGAL immigrants feel safe and happy versus citizens and legal immigrants. We are getting impacted by gangs such as MS-13 which I am going to surmise are generally illegal immigrants with 3 to 4 killings and/or burying of bodies in the neighborhood park. How does that get less attention than an INS raid on illegal immigrants? And it really bothers me when people refer to illegals as just "immigrants". That really demeans those who have gone through the process to get their green cards or visas to be here legally. I hope the blog will reference this group as "illegal immigrants" going forward to be clear who they are talking about.

  10. You break the law you go home.......period. Would you let a burglar in your house 2xs?

    As for the dreamers, yes they are a victim of their parents mis-deads and I don't have an answer on that one. Regardless many of our services depend on both legal and illegal immigrants, and we all benefit from their labor. However amongst them are people that have no interest in earning their stripes. They want it now and they will do whatever they need to do to get there........a flaw in human nature, particularly those who have not been appproriately socialized.

    But housing these folks in ghettos like Culmore just exasperates the problem and propagates crime against naturalized Americans and the immigrant population. That is a local problem and it requires County and local attention. At that is where the County has miserably failed.

  11. It is time to say "NO" to all of those here illegally. If you parents brought you here when you were young the issue is not with the USA it is with YOUR parents. Military kids all the time have to move to different countries and they learn the culture of that country. This county is having a huge issue with MS-13 and alot of those are the "dreamers". We are more concerned about illegal aliens then we are about Chicago & DC. What about those who lost loved ones to someone who is an illegal alien do you still feel sorry for the illegal or the family who lost a loved one. I personally keep my car and doors locked because they belong to me and I want to keep my family safe. Why would we not lock our country and build a wall.