- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Arlington County officials yesterday defended their refusal to check the immigration status of arrested persons, despite Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore’s vow to send in state troopers to enforce the law there if necessary.

“I’m not sure what the problem is he’s trying to solve other than the political problem he might have,” said Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Chris Zimmerman, a Democrat.

Mr. Zimmerman said the job of the Arlington County Police Department is to maintain peace and safety. Local police do not routinely check the immigration status of residents or the tax status of taxpayers, he said.

“They’re not federal officials. They’re not equipped, nor is it their job,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “You can’t expect local police to take on every job that the federal government isn’t doing.”

In a meeting Monday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Mr. Kilgore said he would use state troopers to enforce laws against illegal aliens in Arlington County or any other locality that fails to do so, if he is elected governor.

He also said he would seek legislation and an agreement with the U.S. Homeland Security Department that would allow state troopers to detain illegal aliens and turn them over to federal authorities for deportation.

Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, a Democrat, said yesterday the county’s sizable immigrant population makes crackdowns on illegal aliens difficult.

“My position is it’s very difficult to tell who’s legal and who’s not. A large number of our population are immigrants,” Mrs. Favola said, noting that 1in 4 county residents is foreign born, according to the county’s March profile.

Arlington Police Chief Doug Scott dismissed Mr. Kilgore’s comments as uninformed criticism of his department’s handling of gangs and crimes involving illegal aliens.

“I think we’re looked at from others for guidance,” Chief Scott said. “Our crime rate is very low, and he’d paint the picture that it’s out of control.”

Chief Scott said it is impossible to conduct full-scale investigations of every person arrested for a misdemeanor crime. “I think it would overwhelm the state police, and I know it would overwhelm the [federal] Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

He noted that the county has cooperated with police on gang-related cases in which kingpins were identified as illegal aliens.

“But we don’t want the first question out of the officers’ mouth when [a subject] appears to be from a country other than the United States to be what’s their country of origin,” Chief Scott said. “What’s the trust level going to be with the police if we begin a line of questioning like that?

“But if we find through investigation that there’s a terrorism connection or undocumented immigrants arrested for felony street-gang activities or has been previously convicted of a felony, it has always been our policy to pass that information along to the proper authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manassas leaders welcomed Mr. Kilgore’s vow to use state troopers to enforce immigration laws.

Manassas City Council member Jackson H. Miller, a Republican, said Mr. Kilgore’s proposal “would be a step in the right direction.”

“Absolutely, I think it’s a great idea,” Mr. Miller said. “He’s promising to enforce the law, it’s as simple as that.”

The Manassas City Council has sent a letter asking Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency like those instituted in Arizona and New Mexico.

Mr. Warner rejected a similar request last month by state Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican, saying emergency power is better used for disasters, such as hurricane relief, and that immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job.

Emergency declarations in Arizona and New Mexico freed up millions in state funds to combat violence and human- and drug-trafficking by illegal aliens in areas that border Mexico.

During his meeting with The Times Monday, Mr. Kilgore said he believes Mr. Warner correctly defined the situations in which emergency power should be used.

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