- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Northern Virginia county at the center of the early fights over illegal immigration on Tuesday approved pursuing the Department of Homeland Security for information about what it did with the 7,000 illegals arrested in the county since 2008.

The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday approved the filing of a Freedom of Information Act request to force the agency to disclose whether illegal immigrants arrested and sent to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been deported, detained or released.

The push began last month, when board Chairman Corey A. Stewart said county police were reporting that they were encountering illegal immigrants who had already been arrested and sent to ICE. He said that about 10 percent of the people sent to ICE over the last seven years had been re-arrested for new crimes in the county.

“These are folks who have been arrested for a crime,” Mr. Stewart said. “The policy has always been aimed at troublemakers.”

Mr. Stewart previously said the county may sue the federal government if its information request is not satisfied.

The resolution passed by the board Tuesday originally included a clause authorizing the county’s attorney to take legal action if the FOIA request was not fulfilled.

But Supervisor Frank J. Principi protested that the county should wait on the outcome and then weigh the cost of litigation. The clause was eventually removed.

“Suing the federal government, it reminds me of what’s going on in Washington and Richmond right now,” he said. “Now we’re bringing that form of politics to Prince William County.”

The board on Tuesday also adopted a resolution to ask the county’s congressional delegation for help in the information-gathering process.

This is the second time the county has sought to pressure Homeland Security for information on people turned over to ICE. In 2011, the county went to federal court with a similar request, but the judge ruled that the county and ICE had not exhausted other options to release the information.

The county has maintained requests for information for years since the initial ruling, demonstrating its efforts to get information without court intervention.

Prince William County made national headlines in 2007 when Mr. Stewart led the effort to enact a new county law authorizing local law enforcement to ask people their immigration status, even if they were not suspected of wrongdoing. The legislation sparked similar efforts around the country, including a controversial 2010 law in Arizona.

In 2008, the county amended the law so that police could only ask about citizenship status after a person was first arrested for an unrelated criminal offense.