Warner, McAuliffe seek answers on immigration enforcement in Virginia

lawU.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Gov. Terry McAuliffe each sent letters to Trump administration officials demanding answers on reported enforcement actions in Virginia in recent days as a result of President Trump’s Jan. 25, 2017 executive order.

Warner wrote to the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking for specific details on any enforcement actions in Virginia, including whether – or how – criminal backgrounds are prioritized by ICE officials,  and if any reasonable provision is made for suspects who have minor children.

McAuliffe wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly requesting information regarding Department of Homeland Security and ICE activities.


Mark Warner letter

February 16, 2017
Acting Director Thomas Homan
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C.  20536-5004

Dear Acting Director Homan:

On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” While I have been supportive of increased enforcement as part of comprehensive immigration reform, immigrants are an integral part of Virginia’s culture and economy, and it is my strong belief that a policy of attrition through enforcement will be detrimental for Virginia’s families, neighborhoods, and communities.

By broadening enforcement actions in such a way that does not reasonably prioritize an individual’s criminal record, the Executive Order diverts resources from our true security needs and stands to make us less, rather than more, safe. I remain committed to legislative solutions which strengthen our nation’s borders, improve our legal immigration system, and find practical solutions for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.

It has come to my attention that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel have been conducting enforcement actions in Virginia in recent days, causing uncertainty and fear for many of my constituents.  Since information on the scope and conduct of these ICE actions has been difficult to ascertain, I request timely answers to the following questions:

  1. In what ways, if any, does the executive order change the agency’s priorities for detention and removal? And what is the specific timeframe for making alterations to previous guidance or authorities?
  1. Does ICE interpret section 5 (c) have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense to mean that individuals who are in the U.S. unlawfully are priorities for removal?
  1. To date, how many individuals detained were targets of the enforcement actions vs. collateral detentions of individuals who were not targeted? And how many of those individuals have been detained and/or deported as a result of these ICE enforcement actions?
  1. Section 5 (b) list individuals who have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved, as priorities for removal. How does ICE interpret the directive in instances where the court has not rendered a judgment?
  1. Are enforcement actions happening at or near sensitive locations such as places of worship, healthcare centers & schools?
  1. What steps were taken by ICE to adhere to the Parental Interests Directive and ensure appropriate care for the detained individuals’ minor children that may be at school during the enforcement actions?
  1. Section 11 requires the Attorney General and DHS Secretary to ensure that adequate resources are devoted to the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses. To what extent, if any, does the section also grant detained individuals access to legal assistance?
  1. What steps are being taken to comply with 8 USC 1367 – which provides immigration relief to victims of domestic violence – in Virginia, and what actions are being taken to instruct ICE agents accordingly?
  1. For those individuals who may be subjected to expedited removal, what steps is ICE taking to verify that they are not entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge/that they have not been physically present in the United States for two years?

I anticipate a timely response from your office in this urgent matter.

Mark R. Warner
United States Senator


Terry McAuliffe letter

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 anNBC 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