LAJC Corrects ICE Inaccuracies RE: ACRJ

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For Immediate Release: August 22, 2018

 Contact: Deena N. Sharuk, deena@justice4all.org 434-977-0553

LAJC corrects ICE inaccuracies and joins call for ACRJ to end voluntary ICE notification

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – On Thursday, August 23, at 12:30pm, members of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail (ACRJ) Board will meet for a work session to discuss the jail’s voluntary policy of notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the release date and time of immigrant inmates, so that ICE may detain them. Representatives of the Legal Aid Justice Center and other community members will be present to urge the Jail Board to stop voluntarily facilitating ICE’s federal immigration enforcement.

Previously, on January 25, the ACRJ Board held a special meeting to review the policy. At that meeting, ICE Field Office Director Russell Hott testified in support of the voluntary additional ICE notification policy. Based in part on Mr. Hott’s representations, the ACRJ voted 7 to 3 to maintain the additional ICE notification policy.

In a white paper (pdf)) released today, the Legal Aid Justice Center identified five false or misleading statements made by Mr. Hott in his testimony to the Board. Contrary to Mr. Hott’s statements:

  • Among the most common offenses for which immigrants at ACRJ become subject to ICE notification are getting drunk in public and not having a valid driver’s license.
  • The majority of immigrants in deportation proceedings do not have access to legal representation.
  • ICE does conduct raids.
  • ICE has the ability to seek an arrest warrant signed by a judge for criminal immigration violations. The sensitive nature of the underlying evidence is irrelevant to that pursuit.
  • Being present in the United States of America without permission is not a crime.

Among the sources of the white paper, LAJC analyzed data of the inmate population provided by the ACRJ in response to the LAJC’s Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) request. The LAJC white paper has been shared with the members of the jail board.

“The current voluntary notification policy threatens our collective public safety, flouts protections within our criminal justice system, and disproportionately affects people of color,” says Deena Sharuk, attorney with the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “When local law enforcement are conflated with ICE, it makes our entire community less safe.”

Representatives from ICE are expected to argue in favor of continuing notifications. Commonwealth Attorneys from Albemarle County, the City of Charlottesville, and Nelson County are also invited to participate. Ms. Sharuk and local attorney Tanishka Cruz will advocate for an end to the current notification policy.

No decision is expected at the working session.  The board will meet again on September 13 for public comment and a final vote on the policy.  Members of the Jail board include Sheriff Chip Harding, Supervisor Diantha McKeel, Assistant County Executive Doug Walker, Ms. Cyndra Van Clief, City Council Member Dr. Wes Bellamy. Sheriff James Brown, Interim City Manager Mike Murphy, Ms. Kathy Harris, Mr. W. Lawton Tufts, Sheriff David Hill, and County Executive Steven Carter.

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Legal Aid Justice Center is a statewide Virginia nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen the voices of low-income communities and root out the inequities that keep people in poverty.  We provide legal support to immigrant communities facing legal crises, and use advocacy and impact litigation to fight back against ICE enforcement and detention abuses.