A Virginia police officer who responded to a traffic accident Sept. 21 found that one of the drivers involved lacked a state driver's license. He then looked up the driver, found out they were wanted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for not showing up at a deportation hearing, and got in touch with ICE. The Fairfax County police officer gave the driver a summons for not having a license, per WTOP, and detained the driver until he could turn them over to the ICE agent who showed up—and now the cop has been suspended, CNN reports. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. apologized for the incident and said the officer has been "relieved of all law enforcement duties pending the outcome of" an internal police investigation, per the Washington Post. Typically, a person issued a ticket for not having a license would be released.
The police department bans officers from detaining anyone based solely on a civil violation of immigration law, a policy common in other jurisdictions, which advocates say helps immigrant communities to trust police. "Our police officer violated our long-standing policy and deprived a person of their freedom, which is unacceptable," Roessler said. "Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that [Fairfax County Police Department] is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE." He adds that officers are trained that "we do not enforce nor detain for administrative warrants, and we have no authority to enforce federal law" and says this officer was simply "confused" and did not willfully violate the policy. As for the driver, they were given an ankle monitor and released after three hours in custody. (Read more Immigration and Customs Enforcement stories.)