Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy, in coordination with the Legal Aid Justice Center, is working to undermine the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail’s (ACRJ) cooperation with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Bellamy, who represents City Council on the ACRJ Jail Authority Board, made the surprise offensive at the group’s January 11, 2018 meeting, according to draft minutes and other documents obtained by The Schilling Show.
At issue is the Jail policy of responding to ICE immigration detainer requests. A presentation and handout by Tanishka Cruz, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, explains:
When an immigration detainer is issued, ICE requests 2 specific actions from local jurisdictions: (1) that local officials notify them at least 48 hours before an individual is released from custody; and (2) that local officials maintain custody of the individual for 48 hours beyond the release date to provide ICE with time to assume custody.
Cruz clarified that the ACRJ current policy is to notify ICE of impending release, as delineated above, but not to maintain custody beyond the release date.
The handout continues with a 10th Amendment (!) argument against the presumed legal obligation to comply with ICE requests:
There is no statutory or regulatory requirement that ACRJ comply with ICE notification requests. In fact, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution prevents the federal government from enacting laws or regulations that commandeer the resources of the states to enforce them. ICE has increasingly co-opted the criminal justice system to achieve its immigration enforcement goals. As a result, local police are often the entry point into the detention and deportation.
ICE notification requests are voluntary and no local law enforcement agency is obligated to comply or assist in immigration enforcement. Therefore, ACRJ’s decision whether to respond to an immigration detainer and ICE notification request is entirely discretionary.
The memo then assures the Board that federal judicial rulings will protect non-complying localities from being penalized:
If ACRJ declines to assist ICE with notification requests, ICE may retaliate by threatening to strip away federal funds or step up enforcement. However, several federal district courts have granted nationwide injunctions blocking the Trump administration’s attempts to penalize and defund cities and counties that adopt non-communication and anti-detainer policies.
Legal Aid also makes a convoluted case that complying with ICE in upholding the law is harmful to the greater Charlottesville community:
Complying with ICE notification requests undermines public safety, sows mistrust among the community, devastates local families, and directly feeds people into the mass immigration detention and deportation pipeline. If the City and County are seen as extensions of ICE, community trust in local law enforcement will be eroded and people will be less likely to report crime or serve as witnesses. The message to the community must be that the local government prioritizes the safety of the entire community and values keeping children and their parents together. This message will keep the lines between local and federal officials from being blurred and everyone can feel safe to report crimes, emergencies, or domestic violence without fear of reprisal or family separation.
Moreover, in the face of national movements challenging racial bias in policing, entangling local police with deportation further undermines any attempts to build trust with communities of color.
Following the coordinated presentation, several members of the public spoke in support of the non-compliance proposal, including former Albemarle County Board of Supervisors candidate, Cynthia Neff, who encouraged the community to “say no to ICE.”
Citing a legal and moral opportunity for the Board to “do the right thing,” Bellamy then pushed several times for a “moratorium” on notifying ICE of illegal alien release dates, until such time that an official vote of the Jail Board could legally be taken.
Mike Murphy, Charlottesville Assistant City Manager and fellow Charlottesville ACRJ Board representative, was broadly supportive of Bellamy’s proposal to spurn ICE; however, there was resistance from other quarters.
Albemarle County representatives, Supervisor Diantha McKeel, and Assistant County Executive Doug Walker, expressed concern over the lack of information presented, a need for legal advice from the Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney, and the necessity of bringing the issue to the full Board of Supervisors.
Steven Carter, Nelson County Executive, and representative to the Jail Board, expressed frustration over being broadsided by Bellamy’s ferly proposal and cited his own lack of sympathy towards the policy change. Carter then suggested that Bellamy advise Charlottesville Police to stop arresting illegal aliens who could be subject to ICE reporting. Bellamy stated that such a policy was being pursued in the city and acerbically recommended that Carter implement the same policy in Nelson County.
After further discussion, Bellamy made a motion (which was seconded) for a moratorium on responding to ICE’s voluntary request for release date notifications. Ultimately, the motion was withdrawn on the condition that the Jail Board reconvene for a special meeting on January 25, in order to vote on the matter.
Bellamy’s quest for lawlessness is not Charlottesville’s first foray into resisting federal immigration policies. Disgraced former Mayor, Michael Signer, in early 2017 publicly advocated Sanctuary City status for Charlottesville. Following a Schilling Show exposé on the proposal, Signer backtracked on his illegal alien protection scheme, and the idea was put to rest. It remains to be seen if Bellamy’s bid will meet the same fate.
Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA’s The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.