On May 12, 2011, after months of delay and inaction by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Governor Bob McDonnell wrote Secretary Janet Napolitano requesting immediate approval of the Commonwealth's application for the Virginia Department of State Police to be granted limited immigration enforcement authority under a 287(g) agreement, pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. For 10 months, since the August 2010 request, Virginia has awaited approval to assist ICE in removal of Virginian's most dangerous criminal illegal aliens.
The unfortunate reality is that ICE is underfunded and understaffed to adequately manage the detention and deportation of criminal illegal aliens without the assistance of well-trained state partners. The 287(g) program is the only means by which states are granted authority to assist in the removal process which is a federal responsibility. Public safety dictates limited action by states when citizens are in jeopardy and the federal government does not adequately address the problem.
McDonnell spoke to Secretary Napolitano on May 1, 2011 to request a prompt approval of Virginia's 287(g) application. In the follow-up May 12, 2011 letter to the Secretary, Governor McDonnell wrote, "The application lodged by the State Police meets all requirements and expectations set forth by ICE. We have patiently waited 9 months for formal approval and the time to act is now."
Today, Governor McDonnell stated, "It has always been my position that as a nation of immigrants we seek to be refreshed both economically and culturally by the contributions of lawful immigration. Welcoming lawful immigrants is a hallmark of our nation's history, and should continue to be so in the future. However, we must retain the right to remove the most dangerous illegal aliens from our borders, and 287(g) agreements have been approved across the country for that purpose. Virginia must have the ability to exercise this authority statewide."
Under the proposed terms of a memorandum of agreement between ICE and Virginia State Police, a select number of sworn agents and troopers would be given the authority to assist in removal of criminal illegal aliens who engage in terrorism, major drug and gang offenses, or violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and other specific offenses. The Commonwealth has requested approval for a taskforce model agreement that would authorize 28 officers statewide to be trained under 287(g). Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Graff Decker, and Virginia State Police have excellent working relationships with ICE based on prior successful joint operations such as Operation Cold Play and Operation SOAR. Secretary Decker has been in regular contact with ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton and his staff since the time of the application. The partnership between Virginia and ICE is strong and would only benefit from this additional initiative.
Although Virginia meets all qualifications for authorization under the program, according to public sources, no new statewide taskforce models have been implemented by ICE since 2009. Virginia localities with previously approved 287(g) agreements are: City of Manassas Police Department, Herndon Police Department, Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, Manassas Park Police Department, Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center, Prince William County Police Department, Prince William County Sheriff's Office, Rockingham County Sheriff's Office, and Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office.
"As Attorney General, I urged then-Governor Tim Kaine to request this important public safety tool. Governor Kaine repeatedly refused to make the request when ICE was anxious to provide our State Police with this important law enforcement authority," said Governor McDonnell. "Now, as Virginia's Governor, I cannot stand idly by as the Department of Homeland Security continually ignores my request. I began the formal process in August of 2010 in earnest with encouragement from ICE. State Police and Secretary Decker complied with all of ICE's requests for information necessary to approve the 287(g) application. Ten months is an unacceptable time to wait for a simple answer from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Virginia citizens deserve all of the protections we can afford them from dangerous criminal illegal aliens, and the best way to do that is to maximize our existing state force with the additional authority under 287(g). The time has come for an answer and immediate approval of our request," McDonnell added.
A copy of the May 12, 2011 letter is attached. The August 10, 2010 letter can be found here: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=310