Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he wants an immediate briefing from the Department of Homeland Security after ICE agents arrested at least two men near a church shelter in Fairfax County.
In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, McAuliffe said he is concerned that "ICE agents are detaining Virginia residents without cause or specific allegations of criminal activity."
McAuliffe said in the letter Thursday that he wants to know how President Trump's administration is conducting immigration enforcement actions in the Commonwealth.
McAuliffe's letter asks:
• "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'?"
Witnesses told News4 that ICE agents surrounded a group of Latino men and arrested six or seven of them across the street from Rising Hope Mission Church on Russell Road in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.
The group of men had left the church hypothermia shelter about 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 and crossed the street when the ICE agents ordered them to stand against a brick wall.
Oscar Ramirez said the agents questioned all of them and scanned their fingers to find out if they had criminal backgrounds. Agents quickly cleared Ramirez, who has a green card, he said.
But he and other witnesses said that about six Latino men were arrested and taken away in two vans that pulled up to the area where they had been stopped.
"This is the first time I see something like that," Ramirez said.
"It surprised me. I mean, I think it surprised a lot of people who seen it actually happen," said Marvin Roach, a guest at the church shelter.
"They were clearly targeting the church because they knew that they stayed here in the hypothermia shelter. So they were waiting for them to cross the street and then jump on them," said Rising Hope Mission Church Rev. Keary Kincannon.
An ICE spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency's "sensitive location" policy was followed. The policy requires agents to avoid arresting people at places of worship, schools and medical facilities. The spokeswoman emphasized the arrests took place across the street from the church and not on church property.