Photo: Washington DC
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has signed an executive order prohibiting police officers and all city agencies from questioning people about their immigration status and limiting the District’s cooperation with federal officials when it comes to deportation proceedings.
The order signed Wednesday was cheered by advocates for immigrants, but it does not mean illegal immigrants arrested in the District can not be deported.
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander said the District is not opting out of a mandatory federal program called Secure Communities
, which directs local agencies to share fingerprints collected from people in local jails with the Department of Homeland Security. The program is expected to be in place nationwide by 2013.
D.C. police currently send all fingerprints of anyone arrested for a serious crime to the FBI. That data is shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and can still lead to deportation.
But now D.C. police will not hold individuals beyond the required 48 hours unless federal law enforcement agencies obtain a court order.
In the past, when federal agencies like ICE requested a detainer for individuals believed to be in the country illegally, D.C. police would hold the suspects for longer than the legally required 48 hour period as a
courtesy. That has now changed.
“The 48-hour rule we will apply strictly,” Quander told WTOP reporters.
Gray says he’s willing to consider opting out of Secure Communities in the future but wanted to send a clear message now that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility.
“We’re not going to be instruments of federal law when it comes to immigration status,” Gray said. “If there are steps we need to take beyond this, then we will consider those at that point.”