When Washington D.C., through its mayor, officially announced that it has no intention of cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it sent a signal to its constituents that those elected to protect them actually hold them in low regard.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray reaffirmed last week that District police and other public agencies will not cooperate with ICE, leaving it up to federal immigration officials to determine whether a resident is in the country illegally.
Gray’s decision is the latest in a long line of such executive orders issued by past District mayors. Gray, however, and council members say boastfully that his goes further than early orders by explicitly setting (low) standards for how the city’s criminal justice system will deal with immigrants.
Surrounded by Hispanic and African immigrants, Gray proudly spoke about his disregard of immigration law enforcement:
"In the spirit of ‘One City’ and assuring the equal treatment of citizens and non-citizens alike, I am delighted to sign to this." [D.C. Won’t Cooperate with Federal Immigration Enforcement, by Tim Craig, Washington Post, October 19, 2011]
"One City" is a reference to Gray’s vision of a District wherein ethnic, racial and cultural differences are set aside. Criminals, apparently, are welcome too.
Under Gray’s new guidelines, D.C. police and corrections officials will not ask suspects they come in contact with about their immigration status and will not enforce an ICE detainer or warrant issued against someone who has not committed another crime.
Furthermore, police and jail officials are now prohibited from contacting ICE to verify the legal status of someone who has been arrested. For minor crimes, the District no longer fingerprints perpetrators so the FBI and ICE couldn’t determine immigration status, even if the agencies want to.
For major crimes, however, such as robbery or drug possession, police will continue to collect the offender’s fingerprints and forward them to the FBI which will then determine whether or not to share the information with ICE. Should ICE decide that it wants to detain offenders after their release from jail, the agency will have only 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, to pick up a suspected illegal immigrant from custody. The city will not hold inmates that ICE wants detained past 48 hours.
District Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander said:
"What this does is makes clear immigration status is not relevant in a criminal matter and makes clear that the District will not take any affirmative step to enforce immigration civil matters."
In Prince William County, where law enforcement officials check the immigration status of those arrested, Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart called Gray’s move "disturbing and reprehensible."
"I find it incredibly ironic that the immigration laws of the United States are not even enforced within the boundaries of our nation’s capital."
The illegal immigration crackdown in Prince William County, which began in 2007, eventually led to turning over more than 2,000 illegal immigrants to the federal government for processing and reduced local crime by 30 percent.
In an effort to eliminate crime and ensure citizens’ safety, federal, state and municipal leaders need to pursue every avenue to eliminate the criminal element. Washington D.C. has long had a crime rate high enough to warrant checking immigration status in a effort to make the District as safe as possible.