‘We Have No Authority to Enforce Federal Law’: Officer Suspended After Turning Immigrant Over to ICE

A police officer in Virginia was indefinitely suspended from work after turning someone over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last weekend in an apparent violation of departmental policies.

According to a statement released by Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. on Tuesday, the unidentified officer will be “relieved of all law enforcement duties pending the outcome of [an] investigation” into the incident.

The statement from Roessler left nothing up for debate:

Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that FCPD is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE. This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents . . . It is my duty to enforce our FCPD – and Fairfax County – policies and hold all accountable for their actions.

The Fairfax Count Police Department (FCPD) officer was responding to a traffic accident in Alexandria when he noticed that one of the drivers involved didn’t have a valid license in their possession, according to the department’s lengthy write-up.

After running the non-licensed driver’s information, the officer realized the person in question was wanted by ICE for failing to appear for a deportation hearing. After that, the officer contacted the ICE agent assigned to that warrant and detained the driver until immigration authorities arrived — all of which was in violation of the department’s longstanding policies for dealing with ICE requests.

Since 2007, Alexandria police have been instructed to deal with ICE removal warrants in the following manner:

If the response reads “OUTSTANDING ADMINISTRATIVE WARRANT OF REMOVAL” and the individual is not in custody or being taken into custody for any other violation of law, officers shall not confirm the hit through [ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center] and shall not take the individual into custody based solely upon the [Immigration Violator File] hit. The majority of such administrative warrants represent civil violations of immigration law.

“In addition, training at our Academy, as clearly outlined in lesson plans, as well as in-service training reinforces to our personnel that we do not enforce nor detain for administrative warrants and we have no authority to enforce federal law,” Roessler said. “We have also been working closely with community members and advocates to review our General Orders in this regard.”

The driver taken into custody was released after three hours and outfitted with an ankle monitor, police noted.

“As a matter of full transparency to our community – our police officer violated our longstanding policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable,” Roessler added.

[Image via John Moore/Getty Images.]

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