Governor Terry McAuliffe sent the following letter today to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly requesting information regarding Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
February 16, 2017
The Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Kelly:
I write today to request an immediate briefing from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency regarding recent and ongoing immigration enforcement and removal operations in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
President Trump recently signed an executive order giving ICE agents much broader discretion with respect to which individuals they may target for removal from the country. I am particularly concerned about an NBC Washington report on recent activities in Alexandria, Virginia. You will find the report attached.
The report states that ICE agents patrolled outside of a church that also functions as a hypothermia shelter and detained and questioned individuals without cause about their immigration status as they left. Reportedly, one individual who was detained and questioned was released because he possesses a green card, but as many as six others were arrested.
These reports are anecdotal and I recognize that previous administrations have conducted immigration enforcement actions. However, the NBC report raises a concern that, unlike previous actions, ICE agents are detaining Virginia residents without cause or specific allegations of criminal activity. So today I am requesting information about how the Trump administration is conducting these operations within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Specifically:
- Have DHS and ICE increased operations, detentions and deportations in Virginia since the beginning of this administration?
- Who at DHS or ICE is authorizing individual enforcement actions in Virginia and what guidance are officers receiving in advance of these operations?
- Are ICE agents targeting places of worship, other sensitive locations or public spaces and detaining and questioning individuals without any actionable information about specific people and their cases?
- If so, what are the criteria that ICE agents are using to determine which individuals are subject to questioning?
- Will DHS and ICE continue to adhere strictly to the 2011 ICE policy, which limits immigration enforcement actions at places of worship, schools, medical facilities and other “sensitive locations”?
As the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I have a responsibility to work with federal and local authorities to keep communities like Alexandria safe. Law enforcement relies on trust and engagement with people from the communities they serve so that crimes are properly reported and all people are protected by the law, no matter who they are. That work will be significantly impaired if reports like this are true and individuals from these communities no longer feel safe interacting with law enforcement, government agencies, schools or churches for fear that they will be randomly targeted for deportation.
I look forward to receiving a briefing on these actions and continuing to work with you and your team to keep our Commonwealth and our nation safe.
Terence R. McAuliffe
cc: The Honorable Brian J. Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security for Virginia
Mr. Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement