A judge has sided with the Culpeper County’s top lawman and supervisors in recently ruling the local sheriff has the authority to cooperate with federal immigration officials through participation in the controversial 287(g) program.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. issued a written opinion May 28 dismissing a civil lawsuit brought this past November by the Virginia ACLU against Sheriff Scott Jenkins and the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors. In his written ruling.

The 287(g) program of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows jail deputies processing inmates to screen them for documentation status and issue 48-hour detainers, during which time ICE can chose to take individuals into custody. Jenkins entered into an agreement with ICE in April 2018 to use the program in the county jail, making Culpeper only the second entity in Virginia to have such an agreement in place.

In its suit, the ACLU argued neither state law nor the Virginia Constitution allows sheriffs or sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration law. The suit also claimed the program is being funded with local tax dollars, and included two local taxpayers among its plaintiffs. The ACLU included the Board of Supervisors in the suit because it approves the sheriff’s budget.

Peatross heard arguments in the case May 14 before taking the matter under advisement. The judge wrote in his recent ruling that “plaintiffs cannot demonstrate Sheriff Jenkins acted outside of his duty and authority when he participated in a 287(g) agreement.”

Peatross added, “Virginia law gives Sheriff Jenkins authority to enforce the law under certain statutes,” including Section 19.2-81.6. The Virginia Code section states, “All law enforcement officers … shall have the authority to enforce immigration laws of the United States … in the course of acting upon reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed or is committing a crime, arrest the individual without a warrant upon receiving confirmation from (ICE or Homeland Security) that the individual is an alien illegally present in the United States, and has previously been convicted of a felony in the United States and deported or left the United States after such conviction.”

In addition, Peatross wrote in his ruling, “Federal law expressly authorizes cooperative efforts with state and local governments through cooperative agreements,” including allowing state and local law enforcement officers to perform the “functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension or detention of aliens.”

Virginia ACLU spokesman Bill Farrar said the organization disagrees with the judge’s ruling.

“We are in the process of filing both a motion to for him to reconsider and an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia,” he said.

Recommended for you

Load comments