U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is threatening to increase arrests of undocumented immigrants in Prince William County after the county chose not to report undocumented residents to federal authorities.
ICE threatened to arrest even more people as a result of the county’s policy, and said residents are likely to see more federal agents on streets.
CASA, an organization that fights for and represents the Latino community, said this is a voter intimidation strategy.
“This is part of the Trump administration strategy to scare our communities in the middle of the election,” Executive Director Gustavo Torres said.
Last month, the county's jail released an inmate wanted by ICE who was being held on an assault charge.
In response, ICE said it will likely increase the number of agents who track down undocumented immigrants released by the jail. Then, they went further.
“A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets, the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals who would not have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail,” ICE said.
News4 made several attempts to contact ICE for an interview but its media line went to a voicemail box that was full.
Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell said he didn’t think ICE's threat carried much weight.
"I think this is an empty threat from a dying administration. I mean, this administration, this policy, isn't going to be around probably after January 25th, so I don't really view it as a serious threat,” he said.
People opposed to the idea of a sanctuary city say releasing undocumented immigrants charged with crimes is a threat to the community.
But a new study says otherwise.
The National Academy of Sciences studied ICE and FBI data from 2010 to 2015 and found that sanctuary “policies also changed the composition of deportations, reducing deportations of people with no criminal convictions by half — without affecting deportations of people with violent convictions. Sanctuary policies also had no detectable effect on crime rates."
Many legal immigrants live in homes with undocumented immigrants, Torres said, and these types of threats from the Trump administration scare legal residents too.
“They're trying to scare people who can vote. That is the intention. In the middle of a pandemic. He's horrendous,” Torres said.
He encouraged voters to cast their ballots fearlessly in this election.