Alexan­dria should ex­ert its power over ICE

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY JONATHAN KRALL

In 2017, we at Grass­roots Alexan­dria reached out to our lo­cal sher­iff to ask about his co­op­er­a­tion with Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. As ac­tivists work­ing with al­lies in Ten­ants and Work­ers United, we thought we were mak­ing a small re­quest. We asked our sher­iff to use his dis­cre­tion to stop trans­fer­ring peo­ple from our jail to ICE with­out a proper le­gal war­rant is­sued by a judge.

How­ever, a new re­port from Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house shows that lo­cal jails are the pri­mary source of ICE de­tainees. Forty-one per­cent of ICE de­tainees na­tion­wide come from lo­cal jails; 80 per­cent of ICE de­tainees from Alexan­dria are taken from the sher­iff’s of­fice. When it comes to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment in Alexan­dria, our lo­cal jail isn’t a small thing; it’s the main thing.

In the face of an un­re­spon­sive White House, the lo­cal jail is the one place where our lo­cal lead­ers can ex­ert con­trol over ICE. For­tu­nately, this is ex­actly where we should ex­ert con­trol. Ac­cord­ing to Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house, Sher­iff Dana Lawhorne trans­ferred 270 in­mates to ICE, out of a to­tal of 335 peo­ple de­tained be­tween Oc­to­ber 2014 and May 2018. Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house shows that the trans­fer rate sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased in 2017 over pre­vi­ous years.

One might imag­ine that de­tainees taken from lo­cal jails are “bad dudes,” but the Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house re­port matches what our lo­cal sher­iff has told us: Most peo­ple trans­ferred to ICE are trans­ferred while wait­ing (or wish­ing) to be bailed out. Na­tion­wide, 79 per­cent of de­tainees trans­ferred to ICE from jails were ei­ther not con­victed (58 per­cent) or con­victed of a minor of­fense (21 per­cent). Any­one with ex­pe­ri­ence of “driv­ing while black” or “walk­ing while brown” knows how easy it is for a minor of­fense to es­ca­late to an ar­rest. When we aggressively po­lice eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties, we are work­ing for ICE.

Na­tion­wide, we have protested the sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies at the bor­der. The fact re­mains, how­ever, that when one of our neigh­bors is de­tained, a fam­ily is torn apart. Our al­lies at Ten­ants and Work­ers United tell us they have seen an in­crease in fam­i­lies that are strug­gling to lo­cate a loved one who has been de­tained by ICE by way of the Alexan­dria sher­iff.

We all know our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is bro­ken. Busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers for­merly tol­er­ated this bro­ken sys­tem be­cause the pop­u­la­tion in­crease and un­der­paid la­bor pumped up the econ­omy. Af­ter many years, how­ever, our un­doc­u­mented neigh­bors and their fam­i­lies have wo­ven them­selves into our city. They are our friends, co-work­ers and neigh­bors. We should not give them up with­out a fight.

As we en­joy liv­ing and work­ing in this beau­ti­ful city, we see the “Kind­ness” and “Re­ject Hate” signs. If those mean any­thing at all, we will stand to­gether to pro­tect our neigh­bors. It is time for Alexan­dri­ans to write to the City Coun­cil and to the sher­iff. It is time for in­di­vid­u­als, civic or­ga­ni­za­tions, faith-based groups and the Alexan­dria City Coun­cil to di­rect Lawhorne to use dis­cre­tion for Alexan­dria in­stead of for ICE.

In our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, we have more power over ICE than we pre­vi­ously re­al­ized. Let’s use it. The writer is a mem­ber of the steer­ing com­mit­tee of Grass­roots Alexan­dria.

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