Area police lack policies to deal with illegals

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More than half of the region’s police departments have no written policies on how officers should handle issues concerning illegal aliens or immigration enforcement, according to information obtained by The Washington Times under Freedom of Information Act requests.

Nearly all of the departments with written policies prohibit officers from asking people about their immigration status in most if not all cases.

Municipalities such as Prince William and Loudoun counties, frustrated by the federal government’s inability to enact immigration reform, are trying to reverse the trend through ordinances and enforcement policies.

“We’re in a gray area,” said Ronald A. Ricucci, police chief for the city of Takoma Park, which has the most lenient enforcement policy in the region. “Obviously, you don’t want to put criminals back on the street.”

The Times filed 25 FOIA requests with police and sheriff’s departments in the District and nearby cities, counties and towns in Maryland and Virginia.

Officials from 13 police departments told The Times they do not have an official departmental policy on illegal aliens or immigration enforcement: the towns of Bladensburg, Cheverly, Elkton and Vienna; and the cities of District Heights, Fairfax, Falls Church, Gaithersburg, Hyattsville, Laurel, Leesburg, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Loudoun County supervisors yesterday passed a resolution modeled after one approved in Prince William County last week reaffirming the county’s commitment to uphold federal law. While the Prince William measure includes a law-enforcement provision, Loudoun’s resolution focuses mostly on denying illegal aliens public services.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), Congress’ nonpartisan research arm, defines a sanctuary city as one that “promotes policies that ensure [illegal] aliens … will not be turned over to federal authorities.”

These include “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies where localities do not require employees — including police officers — to report illegal aliens to federal immigration officials, according to the center.

Takoma Park prohibits all city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the investigation or arrest of illegal aliens for civil or criminal violations of federal immigration law.

Police officers never question people on immigration status — even when a person is found to have an outstanding immigration-related warrant upon a check of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, Chief Ricucci said.

“We don’t get into that,” he said. “We lock up criminals.”

Chief Ricucci said yesterday he has asked the city council to revise the ordinance so federal officials can be notified in such cases.

Takoma Park is one of 32 localities — and the only one in the region — defined as a sanctuary city in a 2006 CRS report. However, police departments in many other nearby localities have similar policies in place.

In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the city of Rockville, officers are prohibited from asking people about their immigration status but will notify federal immigration officials if an existing warrant is found during a check of the NCIC database.

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