Civil Liberties Group Says Policy May Lead to Profiling Based on National Origin

LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA – The ACLU of Virginia has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Loudoun County Sheriff seeking documents related to recently announced plans to conduct citizenship background checks of persons who have been arrested and are suspected of being illegally present in the United States.
The ACLU of Virginia is concerned that, without strict non-discrimination rules and practices in place, background checks will be based on national origin, which is illegal.
“Our concern is that the Sheriff does not appear to have in place any protocol for how law enforcement officers will decide whose background will be checked and whose will not,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “If he implements this plan without precise -- and probably costly -- procedures to protect against discrimination, then we are concerned that discrimination based on national origin will occur.
“We believe these kinds of policies are ill-advised in all circumstances,” said Willis, “placing the federal responsibility to implement immigration laws in local hands and leading to hostile relations between local governments and their Latino communities. But where these policies do exist, those in charge must train police officers in non-discriminatory practices, they must put in place an explicit race-neutral protocol for determining when citizenship records will be sought, and they must have recordkeeping systems that compare treatment across racial lines.”
Prince William County adopted a similar policy last year. Attempts by the police to avoid discriminatory conduct came at a high cost to taxpayers and caused a rift between the county government and the Latino community that has lead to many Latinos leaving the jurisdiction.
The Freedom of Information Act request, from ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg to Loudon County Sheriff Stephen O. Smith and transmitted by fax earlier today, asks for “all records pertaining to polices, practices and/or procedures for determining which arrestees will be subject to immigration status checks.” It also seeks information on the official relationship between ICE and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office.
A copy of the FOIA request can be found at the following link: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20080620-Loudoun-Co-Citizenship-Checks.pdf.

CONTACT: Kent Willis, (804) 644-8022

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