- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Fairfax and Arlington counties will receive more than $800,000 in federal grant money to offset the cost of jailing illegal aliens, a power the localities will gain under a new state law that takes effect July 1.

Officials in both counties said they will enforce the law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants in the fight against gangs and terrorists.

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said yesterday the 28 jurisdictions in Virginia that will be enforcing the law will each get a portion of the $2.8 million federal grant to help defray the costs associated with detaining the illegal aliens.

Arlington will receive $223,125, and Fairfax County will receive $618,920. Loudoun County will receive $72,846, and Prince William County will receive $296,786.

A spokesman for Mr. Allen said the money is intended to help jurisdictions with already tight budgets deal with the federal issue of illegal aliens. The federal grant is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s State Criminal Assistance Program.

“Senator Allen feels that committing a violent crime is outrageous and has made it very clear he wants to get violent criminals off the street,” spokesman John Reid said. “The fact that they are illegal aliens means we shouldn’t have to deal with their crime in the first place.”

Mr. Reid said the senator hopes jurisdictions will now feel they have the resources — with the new law and the federal grant money — to respond to the state’s problem with illegal aliens.

Currently, police investigating a crime are not authorized to forcibly hold an illegal alien pending the arrival of a federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent. The new law will permit local police to arrest any illegal immigrant who previously had been convicted of a felony and deported.

Fairfax County Police Sgt. Richard Perez said the county, which receives the largest portion of the grant, will use the powers granted by the new law.

“Fairfax County Police Department will use that law to rid our communities of felons, who are here illegally and who are engaging in criminal activity,” he said.

In a letter published May 1 in The Washington Times, Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott said current policy authorizes officers to take action when they come into contact with illegal immigrants who are convicted felons or are suspected of terrorism or gang activity.

“When the law goes into effect July 1, Arlington police officers will arrest known undocumented immigrants, meeting the very narrow criteria set forth in the new law,” Chief Scott wrote.

The chief’s spokesman, Matt Martin, declined to comment further yesterday.

Meanwhile, Alexandria officials plan to announce a policy concerning the law in the next few weeks, according to police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch.

Miss Bertsch said police are working with the Alexandria Human Rights Commission, the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and Hispanic groups to develop a policy.

Immigration experts estimate that 10 million illegal aliens reside in the United States and that more than 100,000 of them live in Virginia.

Authorities have connected illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with crime gangs operating in Northern Virginia, and a Mexican drug syndicate with a sharp increase in methamphetamine trafficking in the Shenandoah Valley.

The new law was part of a package of antigang legislation proposed this year by state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican.

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