Immigration Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Overview

Arlington County has long prided ourselves on being an inclusive and welcoming community that respects and equitably serves all of our residents. Recent actions on immigration enforcement at the federal level have understandably created uncertainty in our community. These FAQs seek to address those questions and provide certainty to our residents about their interactions with Arlington County Government agencies and personnel. Simply, Arlington County’s policies and operations have not changed. We will continue to live up to our core values as a community that values diversity, inclusivity, and treats everyone with human dignity and respect.

General

1. Is Arlington County a “sanctuary jurisdiction”?

Arlington County has always defined ourselves as a welcoming and inclusive community where every person has the right to live, learn, work and play. We have not defined ourselves as a “sanctuary jurisdiction.”

2. Other jurisdictions are calling themselves “sanctuary jurisdictions,” why not Arlington?

Arlington County believes that doing so could potentially mislead our residents and others to believe that Arlington County is able to, in some way, shield them from immigration enforcement actions by the federal government. We do not have the authority to do so. While Arlington County local policies have not changed as a result of recent Executive Orders issued by the Administration, it is important to note that we cannot protect any individual from federal immigration enforcement actions.

3. Can Arlington County protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration enforcement actions?

No. While Arlington County does not enforce federal immigration law, we cannot stop the ability of the federal government to do so. Arlington County is not able to shield or protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration enforcement actions by the federal government.

4. Do any protections exist for undocumented immigrants in Arlington County?

Yes. Under the United States Constitution, all individuals, regardless of immigration status, have equal protection under the law. Undocumented immigrants should not fear requesting Arlington County services, including from our police, if they need help. Additionally, Arlington County has strong policies against discrimination. In the County, it is unlawful to:

  • Discriminate because of race, national origin, color, marital status, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital or familial status (being pregnant or having children under age 18);
  • Retaliate against any person who opposes discriminatory practices;
  • Discriminate in the sale, rental or financing of housing or commercial real estate; the provision of public accommodations; applications for or offers of credit; enrollment in private educational institutions; and employment

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, please contact:
Arlington County Office of Human Rights
2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 318
Arlington, VA 22201
703-228-3929

5. Is there a chance that the Federal government will ‘limit’ federal dollars for communities that don’t cooperate with the new Administration on immigration enforcement?

It is unclear IF there will be any penalties for communities that do not comply with federal law. However, Arlington County complies with all federal law and therefore there is no lawful basis to believe federal funding to the County is at risk.   To be clear, Arlington County’s decisions or policies are not influenced by the threat of the loss of federal funding or any other potential negative actions by the federal government.

Public Safety

1. Does the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) enforce federal immigration law?

No. The Federal government is responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws, and Arlington County will not attempt to have this responsibility. It is long-standing policy that Arlington County law enforcement has not and will not monitor, detain, interview, or investigate a person solely for the purpose of determining their immigration status.

2. Is Arlington County part of ICE’s 287(g) Program?

No. Arlington County has never participated in the 287(g) Program. The program, enacted in 1996, authorizes the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration law enforcement functions. Arlington County has always stated that participation in this program is in opposition to the County’s community policing principles and would make our community less safe.

3. Does the ACPD accompany ICE during immigration enforcement actions?

Any ACPD involvement in ICE actions is limited to those actions where a criminal warrant exists for the apprehension of a specific individual or individuals and there is a legitimate local public safety concern. ACPD will cooperate to the fullest extent with any federal, state or local law enforcement agency, including ICE, requesting assistance with executing a criminal warrant within Arlington County. ACPD may also be present during the execution of an ICE administrative warrant, if ICE requests assistance. The purpose of ACPD involvement in such instances is to maintain the safety and security of the public. Any engagement or actions that solely have to do with immigration enforcement will be conducted by the ICE agent and not an ACPD officer.

4. Does ACPD require documents such as passports or visas during encounters with residents and visitors?

No. ACPD does not request passports, visas, “green cards,” or travel documents instead of, or in addition to, standard forms of identification. Standard forms of identification include a driver’s license or other government-issued identification. Identification with a photograph is preferred but not required. During the course of an investigation, ACPD officers will always seek to identify individuals, particularly those who they have reasonable suspicion to believe have committed a crime. For certain crimes that do not require a custodial arrest, the individual may be released on a summons, unless there is reason to believe that the individual will not respond to the summons. If a person cannot provide identification or sufficient information to confirm their identity, it could result in the individual’s arrest.

5. What happens if a person is arrested?

When any person is arrested in Arlington County, including undocumented immigrants, the ACPD conducts a criminal record check or fingerprint scan. Anytime that a criminal record check or a fingerprint scan is conducted, this information is checked against the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which interfaces with the ICE database. This could include any situation in which a custodial arrest and detention is appropriate. This may include arrest for traffic infractions, misdemeanor and felony charges.

6. What will happen to a person who is a victim or a witness to a crime?

ACPD does not routinely conduct criminal records checks or obtain the fingerprints for victims or witnesses. During the course of an investigation the police may seek identification for the parties involved in the incident to assure officer safety and to ascertain if there are any warrants or protective orders in effect. This information is also needed to further the investigative process and prosecution.

7. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested, what steps are followed by ACPD and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO)?

As required by Virginia law, when an individual is arrested and brought to the Arlington County Detention Facility for booking, their fingerprints are taken and electronically sent to the Virginia State Police (VSP) to check against the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN). Once the fingerprints are checked against VCIN, a query of federal databases is also electronically performed, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Enforcement Integrated Database (EID). If there is a positive fingerprint match in the DHS database, ICE is electronically alerted and can undertake a more thorough investigation.

8. Does Arlington County honor ICE detainers?

Consistent with the January 5, 2015 advisory opinion by the Virginia Attorney General, the ACSO does not hold detainees in custody at the County Detention Facility based solely on a detainer request by ICE. In order for the ACSO to detain a person after they have satisfied their local charges, a judicially issued warrant must accompany the detainer. Pursuant to ACSO policy, ICE is notified forty-eight (48) hours prior to the detainee’s release in order to facilitate the transfer of custody to ICE.

Education

1. Does my child need to be a U.S. citizen or have a visa in order to attend public school?

No. So long as your child lives in Arlington, he or she has a right to attend school. The U.S. Supreme Court has long said that undocumented students have a constitutional right to attend public school. APS welcomes, and wants to educate, every child who is a resident of Arlington County.

 

2. Does APS turn over immigration-related information to federal authorities?

APS does not solicit or collect information as to whether a particular student may be undocumented. Even in the event that school staff become aware of a student’s immigration status, they are not obligated to alert immigration authorities. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. part 99) – sets federal privacy requirements for student education records. Under FERPA, APS generally must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release personally identifiable information from the student’s education record, subject to certain exceptions. Those exceptions include, among others, if the disclosure of the records is needed:1.) to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena or; 2.) in cases of health and safety emergencies.

3. Are ICE Agents allowed on school property?

Federal authorities are not restricted by statute or regulation from taking immigration enforcement actions at any location, including schools. Existing U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy does provide that ICE agents will not ordinarily seek to take enforcement actions at certain “sensitive locations”, including schools. The purpose of these long-standing policies is to restrict enforcement actions at these sites due to the disturbance and unrest that would be created. The DHS guidance provides that in certain emergency or exceptional situations, or with prior DHS supervisory approval, federal immigration officials may seek to question an individual, perform a search, or conduct an arrest at school. In that event, school officials will verify their credentials, and inquire as to what the emergency is that’s prompting the action at school. In the event a student is questioned, school officials will adhere to APS policies 25-1.3 and 1.5, which provide that the student’s parents should be notified, and if unavailable, an administrator should sit in.

4. What is the role of School Resource Officers (SROs)?

The ACPD has a dedicated team of officers who are primarily assigned to work within the Arlington County Public School System. These officers are regular members of the school community and are assigned there to maintain a safe school community and interact on a regular basis with students. These officers are governed by the same ACPD policies outlined above.

County and Community Services

1. Can undocumented residents access County services?

Yes. Arlington County does not require any resident to provide proof of legal presence in order to access nearly all County government services, including but not limited to:

  • Access to police, fire and emergency medical services
  • All Parks & Recreation facilities and programs
  • Aging and disability services
  • Child welfare and behavioral health services
  • Emergency financial assistance and shelter
  • Employment services
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Health clinics such as immunization, maternity, family planning, dental, STDs

2. What happens if the police or federal agents asks Arlington County for information about undocumented residents?

Records of individuals receiving services at the Arlington County Department of Human Services are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as well as other federal regulations, and cannot be shared unless required through an official subpoena or warrant. Residents that are eligible for and in need of these important services do not need to forgo these important benefits.

3. What types of services are available for an undocumented resident who becomes a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault?

Victims of domestic violence can call 911 for ACPD assistance or can contact the 24-hour confidential domestic and sexual violence hotline at Doorways for Women and Families: 703-237-0881.

4. Are there non-profit organizations available to assist undocumented residents with food, shelter, health care and other services?

Yes. There are a number of organizations that are able to provide services and we encourage you to visit our immigration webpage.

5. Are there any programs that undocumented residents are not able to receive from Arlington County?

With few exceptions, undocumented persons are not eligible for federal and state funded public assistance programs administered by Arlington County. Consistent with federal law, Arlington County abides by all eligibility requirements and restrictions. The following programs and services DO require recipients to provide proof of legal presence and are not available to undocumented residents. Households that have both documented and undocumented residents may receive pro-rated benefits for these programs:

  • Housing grants and housing choice voucher program
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Refugee assistance payments
  • Department of Labor funded employment training
  • Child care subsidies
  • Federal Foster Care program