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‘Trying To Do The Right Thing’: Sheriff Defends Officer In Nearby County Suspended For Turning Illegal Alien To ICE

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
  • A Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer was suspended, and later allowed to return to work, for turning over an illegal alien over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the suspension was unwarranted, and that it’s routine protocol for police officers to work with their counterparts in federal agencies. 
  • Jenkins also touted his county’s agreement with ICE, known as the 287(g) program, that makes it cost effective for local jurisdictions to work with federal immigration authorities. 

A Virginia sheriff sounded off about a cop in a nearby county who was suspended for turning an illegal alien over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and noted that his constituents “overwhelmingly” want to see criminal aliens taken off the streets.

The Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department suspended a police officer, and then allowed the officer back on the job, after the cop held an illegal alien in custodial detention in September and then handed the person over to ICE. The reprimand attracted sharp criticism from federal immigration officials, the country’s largest law enforcement union and others who argue the cop was simply enforcing the law.

“The officer was doing what he felt was the right thing. Cooperating with federal law enforcement is part of our daily job and what we do everyday on the streets as officers in any department — whether it was the [Drug Enforcement Administration], FBI or ICE,” Culpeper County, Virginia, Sheriff Scott Jenkins said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “He did what his conscience told him he should do: cooperate and work with another law enforcement agency as we do everyday. … I feel for him because I truly believe he was just trying to do the right thing.”

Jenkins reiterated that he respected and didn’t want to be critical of the Fairfax County Police Department and its chief. His criticism was focused on the policy of suspending an officer for simply cooperating with a federal law enforcement agency — something Jenkins says is a daily occurrence with local law enforcement officials.

The uproar began on Sept. 21 when a police officer, who has remained unidentified, was called to the scene of a traffic accident in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County. One of the drivers did not have a license, and when the officer ran the person’s information through the system, the officer learned the driver had failed to appear to a deportation hearing. The police officer held the individual until an ICE agent was able to arrive and make an apprehension.

The action was an apparent violation of the county’s longstanding sanctuary policy. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler suspended the officer and issued a public apology Tuesday. The punishment caused an uproar. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli called it “pathetic” and the president of the National Fraternal Order of Police encouraged Roessler to “remember where he came from.”

Roessler announced Wednesday the officer would be allowed to return to work.

Unlike the heavily Democratic Fairfax County, Culpeper County works with federal immigration authorities in an official capacity. County leaders in April 2018 entered into the 287(g) program, which is a cooperation agreement between local law enforcement and ICE in which the agency pays most of the tab for immigration enforcement. The agreement undercuts the argument made by critics that local officers shouldn’t expend their own resources to help federal authorities.

Police and first responders gather at the Gannett headquarters, home of USA Today, in McLean, Virginia, on August 7, 2019. - The newspaper USA Today evacuated its headquarters in northern Virginia on Wednesday following an alleged sighting of an armed man at the building, but later said the report was "mistaken. Fairfax County police said they had "found no evidence of any acts of violence or injuries." (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Police and first responders gather at the Gannett headquarters, home of USA Today, in McLean, Virginia, on Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — which has been behind nearly every single lawsuit targeting the Trump administration’s immigration agenda — sued Culpeper County for entering into the 287(g) program. The battle, however, proved successful for Jenkins when a circuit court judge ruled in favor for his county in May.

“Part of the reason I joined the 287(g) program because I learned first hand, talking with ICE, the director of ICE, how short they are because of the border crisis,” Jenkins said to the DCNF. “The border crisis has caused ICE to pull them from all across the country and take them down to the border literally to play jailer or prison guard for these facilities that are holding people.” (RELATED: Over Half A Million Central Americans Entered Mexico Illegally In First Half Of 2019)

Jenkins said that when a couple hundred people showed up to a recent town hall meeting to protest his cooperation with ICE, he later discovered that most of them were from out of town. The vast majority of the residents living ins county support getting criminal illegal aliens off the streets.

“I’ve got a population of 52,000 – not a bug community, but 52,000 people I can tell you I can count on two hands the number of people I’ve heard voice to me their displeasure. Overwhelmingly I get great applause and encouragement to continue with the program as I have and to continue cooperating with ICE in any way that we need to,” he said.

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