main banner

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Immigrant advocates urge county officials to address 'crisis of deportations'

Immigrant advocates, from the left, Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, and Sookyung Oh and Jung Bin Cho of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium. 
The recent decision by Fairfax County Sherriff Stacey Kincaid to stop holding people in jail beyond their release times so U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can pick them up is a step in the right direction, immigration advocates say.

Fairfax County needs to do more, however, to address the “crisis of deportations,” the advocates said at a press briefing March 14 at the office of the National Korean American Service & Education Consorium (NAKASEC) in Annandale.

The deportation pipeline [created by Diane Alejandro for ACLU People Power Fairfax and the Fairfax for All Coalition]
NAKASEC, the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and other organizations have been pushing Kincaid for months to cancel a contract with ICE in which she agreed to hold undocumented people at the Adult Detention Center for two extra days to give ICE agents time to pick them up and begin deportation proceedings. In January, Kincaid finally agreed; as of May 23, the jail will no longer hold people beyond their release date.

That policy change has already had an impact. Since Feb. 18, the sheriff’s office has only turned over one person to ICE. Between January and October of 2017, the sheriff let ICE pick up 663 people.

Those people hadn’t been convicted of a crime or sentenced. The vast majority were being held for minor charges, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana or public intoxication. If a regular citizen were booked, they would likely be released right away on their own recognizance.

The sheriff’s cancellation of the contract with ICE “is a positive step forward,” said Sandoval-Moshenberg, an attorney with LAJC. “But this is just minimum compliance with the law. Fairfax County considers itself welcoming to immigrants. We demand more than the bare minimum.”

Families torn apart

More than 11,000 county residents face deportation hearings; that is one of every 100 county residents, Sandoval-Moshenberg said. Fairfax County has the seventh highest number of deportations in the United States – more than Dallas, Baltimore, Orange County, Calif.; and Maricopa County, Ariz.

Mason District is “the heart of the crisis,” with 2,637 people – one in 40 Mason residents – awaiting deportation proceedings, he said.

It’s not only undocumented people who are affected. People with green cards or covered by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) could be deported if convicted of an felony – and in Virginia, stealing something worth $200 or having a small amount of marijuana is a felony.

“One bad decision on a Saturday night could get a green-card holder in deportation proceedings,” said Sandoval-Moshenberg.

Deporting people has a huge impact on families. If parents are deported, their children are likely to grow up in a broken home in extreme poverty – or they will follow their parents home and come back when they are 18, Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “This has extraordinarily negative long-term consequences.”

One of his clients is a single mother in Mason District with a child born in the United States with severe special needs. She is facing a deportation order because she was stuck in a security line in the courthouse and missed a court hearing. She will now probably have to move back to South America because the minor mistake of failing to get to the court half an hour early.

NAKASEC shares an office with the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, and Oh noted an activist with that group, Alejandra Pablos, a green-card holder, has been detained in Arizona for a week after she checked in with ICE because of minor charges on her record.

The next step for NAKASEC and LAJC is to urge the Fairfax County government and school board to change their policies on immigrants, said Sookyung Oh, D.C. area director of NAKASEC. The groups have scheduled a community meeting on March 17 at NAKASEC officers to talk about what to work on next “to interrupt the deportation pipeline.”

Since undocumented immigrants can’t get a Virginia driver’s license, the advocates would like Fairfax County to allow them to use another form of legal identification.

“If you’re undocumented and driving, you could face deportation of you pass a stop sign, have a broken tail light, or make an illegal turn,” Oh said. Some immigrants who can’t get a driver’s license in Virginia get one from another state in a misguided attempt to follow the law.

Noting that most of the people facing deportation – three in 10 – don’t have a lawyer, Sandoval-Moshenberg would like to see Fairfax County provide legal representation to help people in deportation proceedings. Arlington County funds an attorney for immigrants, at about $100,000 a year, and the City of Baltimore provides two. While there are nonprofit groups that offer legal services, they have long waiting lists.

Focus on crime

Another policy the immigration advocates want Fairfax County to adopt is to prohibit the police from sharing data with ICE. The Fairfax County Police Department has in general been good about not taking on the role of immigration enforcers, but police officers have the discretion to contact ICE if they stop someone.

“We want to remove that discretion. The police are here to enforce county laws. They are not immigration officers,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “If someone commits a crime, they need to be arrested, but should not suffer additional consequences because of where they’re from.”

This is particularly important in light of the current federal administration’s policy calling for immigration enforcement “to be as brutal and aggressive as possible,” he said. “In this context, Fairfax County needs to step back and walk away from immigration enforcement.”

“We’re not asking the police to not arrest criminals,” Oh said. “The majority of folks turned over to ICE are not criminals; they’ve been arrested for minor issues.”

“The police have done a lot of work building trust with the community,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “Immigrants have been willing to talk to them. That’s why Fairfax has seen less gang crime.”

“That trust is being undermined by the tougher polices of this administration,” he said. “Immigrants are retreating into their apartments behind locked doors. That’s making it harder to prosecute MS-13 crimes. Victims and witnesses are afraid to come forward. Our goal is to rebuild that trust.”


  1. I don't get this argument. It's as if the U.S. is supposed to establish two sets of rules - one for U.S. citizens and one for those who choose to come here either legally or illegally.
    The system of laws and punishment we have in this country is SUPPOSED to instill a sense of fear to keep the population from committing crimes. If you break the law, you get punished. It’s that simple.
    If a citizen of the U.S. commits a crime and is sentenced to prison, doesn't that "break up a family?" Isn't the parent "ripped away" from the children to be punished for the crime committed? Doesn't that create hardship for the remaining members of the family? But are we going to quit enforcing laws simply because it creates a hardship on the family? I hope not.
    So, why is it supposed to be different for immigrants? If you commit a crime - which entering or staying in this country illegally is a crime - you should face the consequences.
    If a U.S. citizen misses a court date for whatever reason, he or she is going to face more scrutiny and/or potentially a stiffer penalty than if they had been there on time.
    If a U.S. citizen drinks too much on a weekend and is arrested for DUI, he or she absolutely should be punished for "one bad decision on a Saturday night."
    As for the statement that, "Some immigrants who can’t get a driver’s license in Virginia get one from another state in a misguided attempt to follow the law." Are we supposed to be that naive? The immigrants KNOW exactly what they're doing. It's not an attempt to follow the law. It's a deliberate and calculated attempt to SKIRT the law. It's no different than the innumerable owners of vehicles in Fairfax County who register their vehicles in Maryland to keep from paying Fairfax County property tax etc.
    As for Mr Sandolval-Moshenberg assertion that, "If someone commits a crime, they need to be arrested, but should not suffer additional consequences because of where they’re from." It's not a matter of where they're from. It's because if the perpetrator is here illegally, they have broken additional laws. It's like saying a suspected thief who has a warrant for his arrest, should only be ticketed for speeding if he gets pulled over but shouldn't be arrested on the theft charge at the same time.
    As for his comment that, "The majority of folks turned over to ICE are not criminals; they’ve been arrested for minor issues." If you're here illegally, you are a criminal. The law is fairly binary. You've either broken the law (a criminal) or you haven't (not a criminal).
    It also seems that Mr Sandoval-Moshenberg wants his cake and eat it, too. He doesn't want Fairfax County to spend resources helping federal authorities enforce the law, but he is perfectly happy spending county resources to help those who have broken federal law.
    What really created this "deportation crisis" is really the same thing that has caused many of the problems in Fairfax County and Mason District in general - a lack of proactive action by the BoS BEFORE something gets to crisis stage. And, to be fair, the majority of the blame goes on the federal government (both Democrat and Republican - Executive and Legislative branches) for failing to address and enforce immigration policies for decades.
    As for MS-13, it should be categorized as a terrorist organization. If you instill this much fear in a community, you're a terrorist organization plain and simple. Fairfax County should be working with, not against, the federal government to simply crush this plague on our community.
    I have to ask one last question - Why do these activists ask Fairfax County and the U.S. to do more for immigrants than the governments of their own countries? If the situation was better there, then immigration would not be an issue here. The problem would be fixed at the source. Why aren't they petitioning for change in the countries of origin?

  2. Hoorah you summed it up perfectly! Unfortunately you wont see any action until one of those MS 13 monsters puts down a supervisor or someone of notoriety in the County. And that a damn shame. And your are spot on MS 13 is a terrorist organization. Everyone should read the recent Washington Post article on the Brentwood HS in Brentwood NY/Suffolk County. MS 13 has taken over that school.

  3. Agree %100 with both previous comments. This nonsense needs to end.

  4. Wow "Anonymous" #1. I would love to meet you. You sound perfect in every way: so smart and so free of sin. How did you manage to get through life without ever breaking a law? Not a single criminal law? Not a single traffic infraction? You've filled out every paper required of you exactly right and right on time. You turned in all your homework and got straight As. You've never disappointed anyone. I love that about you. You're probably the perfect weight too. I bet you've never even had a pimple on your face. Or ever said a bad word about anyone. It's so amazing. I didn't think perfect people existed but now, I see I was wrong.

    1. This isn't about petty misdemeanors. That's simply window dressing for what has become a larger controversy between advocates for respecting this nation's laws and advocates for Open Borders. The Obama administration's contribution to this standoff was in ill advisedly drawing distinctions between categories of illegals. These distinctions were made out of whole cloth and were motivated solely by political considerations. As a result, well behaved illegal economic immigrants got to stay while ICE was, in theory, supposed to focus on apprehending criminal illegals. While this may have been appealing to those who favored amnesty, it was nonetheless predicated on a total fiction. Nothing in the law ever required ICE to draw such distinctions. Like it or not, being in this country illegally is reason enough to support a deportation action. So, unless that changes, I see little point in continuing to debate with Open Borders advocates about who ICE can arrest.

    2. Kristi, never said I was perfect. I would not, however, knowingly break the law and then expect someone to advocate for, and the government to support, my illegal activities.

      And, if you can't debate political issues like the wholesale disregard of the law without making pointless personal attacks, I don't think I'd ever want to meet you. Your comments are kind of like profanity, which has been described as "...the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly."

  5. I'm a white, American, lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, who has lived in Annandale for the last 15 years. I rented for many years at the Parliaments Apartments. I just recently purchased a home here with my wife. I expect we'll call Annandale home for decades to come.

    A big part of the reason that we like to be here is the diversity of our neighbors. That includes the guys standing on the service road or next to 7-Eleven trying to find an honest day's work. It includes our Korean and Vietnamese neighbors who overstayed their tourist visas so that they can try to live the American dream. These are the kind of people that I want to live with.

    If brown people bother you, I'm sorry to say it, but Annandale is not the place for you. It's not the 1950s or 60s or even 70s anymore. There's no excuse for you to be so ignorant as to equate illegal immigrants with organized crime. Crime rates are lower among illegal immigrants than among American citizens of similar socioeconomic status. In my experience, immigrants, both illegal and otherwise, tend to be much harder working then US citizens. In these and many other respects, they tend to be better people than Americans.

    It really is amazing to me to hear the hatred that comes out of the mouth of some of my neighbors. It is simply cruel to remove people from this country, by force, simply because they violated some ridiculous immigration laws, and picked up some drug charges (as an example). And, frankly, our community becomes weaker, and less appealing, and a worse place to live every time our government commits one of these disgusting Acts.

    1. I love diversity as well, but now when our community and schools are being overtaken by criminals and vagrants then it becomes a major distraction and a national security problem. Many of those same successful Asians you mentioned do not like all this illegal immigration, MS 13 and the crimes they bring with them. They too want a more legal system for immigration. Breaking the law is breaking the law. We can do better and right now we are not.

    2. Matt, I’m sorry but your trite attempt to portray me as a “hater” and/or racist simply falls well short. In fact, some of my closest friends are immigrants. I know how hard they work so there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to help them. They also did it the right way and most do not condone illegal immigration either.
      Secondly, the diversity in the greater Springfield/Annandale area is one of the reasons we chose to live here.
      How about this? You open your mind a bit and realize there are people who can support LEGAL immigration while condemning ILLEGAL immigration. And, I’ll admit that I won’t be so naïve as not to agree that there are racists who hide behind a veil of immigration enforcement.
      I would also ask you to understand that there are people who can actually differentiate and support LEGAL immigration while not condoning the negative impact that illegal immigration has on the indigenous AND LEGAL immigrant populations. Here’s an analogy that is not meant to belittle the trials of the immigrant community but one I hope makes the point. A person can like alcoholic beverages. Those beverages come in all flavors, colors, and originate from many different parts of the world. That same person, who likes all those different beverages, regardless of where they originated or what flavor they are, can still protest the abuse of alcohol (e.g., public intoxication and DUI).
      Another analogy that I hope can make a point. Matt, let’s say you a big moviegoer (and let’s equate that to an immigrant who is trying to enter this country legally) and you want to go see the latest release in a movie theater that only holds about 100 people. You try to do it right. You buy your ticket, you stand in line, but at the last moment a crowd of 100 non-paying customers burst through, none of them buy tickets, they grab all the popcorn and soda, and they take all the seats at the movie, leaving you without any seat. How would you feel? Would you feel they cut the line? Wouldn’t you feel they took advantage of the benefits of the theater without ever having waited or paid for anything? And, most importantly, wouldn’t you expect the theater to do something to prevent that kind of activity in the future. Yes, I know it’s an analogy that could be viewed as belittling the very dire situations many of the immigrant community face. But I think somebody has to advocate for the legal immigrant and stand up and say what the illegal immigrants are doing isn’t right. The legal immigrant has waited, done all the paperwork, etc. while the others haven’t. No matter how you view it, it’s just not right.
      Another point, the immigration laws are set up to protect diversity. The system deliberately enables a fair entry of ALL ethnicities so that no one particular group can gain an unfair advantage over any other. Illegal immigration upsets that fair balance. Also, not all illegal immigrants are “brown people” as you so vulgarly put it. There are illegal white immigrants from places like Europe and even Australia. So, the immigration laws are not “ridiculous.” There are many valid reasons for them that perhaps you have simply failed or refuse to see.
      Lastly, I did not equate ALL immigrants to organized crime as you so ineptly portrayed my comment. I very specifically equated MS-13 – a notoriously violent criminal gang – to a terrorist organization. I hope you can see your mistake if you go back and actually read what I wrote.

    3. Matt, I'm not sure I agree with you on all points, but you sure do articulate your viewpoint well and I appreciate that.

  6. I am all for kicking out "white" people who overstay their visas or cross the border illegally as much as any other group. Just as Europe and just about any other first world nation does today. I doubt that I could go plant myself in South Korea and try to live there successfully without a Visa either.