Mayor Vincent Gray has ordered police in the District of Columbia not to ask individuals about their immigration status in the process of routine questioning or arrests. The change, which is in stark contrast to measures adopted by Arizona and other states, should help enable residents of the district to speak to the police without fear of deportation. The goal is to make the district's large immigrant community feel safer cooperating with law enforcement, and therefore to help reduce crime.
This policy is not actually new. It began under Mayor Marion Barry in 1984. However, the policy is now formalized and applies to the District of Columbia's correction agencies, in addition to the police force.
However, the district will still participate in the controversial "Secure Communities" program, under which police officials share fingerprints with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE then checks the fingerprints against immigration databases. The program is supposed to target only illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, but has been controversial enough that the state of Illinois opted out of the program.
While this change is a small step towards protecting hard-working residents from deportation, it doesn't directly protect anyone from deportation. Therefore, any individual with questionable immigration status who runs afoul of ICE enforcement should contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately. In our post 9/11 world, the federal government has generally taken a very aggressive stance towards deportation, and an innocent mistake can have someone marked for deportation with alarming speed. An experienced attorney can make a difference.
Source: The All Headline News, "DC bans police from asking about immigration status," Kris Alingod, Oct. 20, 2011