Friday, August 24, 2007

A Virginia task force is looking for ways to take control of the widespread and varied laws that localities have recently enacted to crack down on illegal aliens.

The Virginia State Crime Commission’s task force on illegal immigration is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Richmond, and it expects to hear presentations on the number of illegal aliens in the state’s jails and prisons and the federal government’s handling of incarcerated criminal aliens.

The task force, made up of lawmakers and law-enforcement officials, last month requested the data from commission staff after proposing a mandate for state sheriffs and jail wardens to initiate deportation proceedings for illegal aliens.

The proposal is intended to create a uniform statewide policy on immigration enforcement to replace the current “patchwork approach” of sometimes conflicting policies at the county and city levels, said state Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican and co-chairman of the task force.

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram on Wednesday ordered state and local police to notify federal immigration officials when an illegal alien is arrested for an indictable offense or drunken driving.

The decision was made with a similar goal of creating a statewide policy after a suspect in the Aug. 4 execution-style killings of three Newark, N.J., college students was found to be an illegal alien who had been granted bail on child rape and aggravated-assault charges.

Immigration officials had not been notified of the suspect’s existence.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said his powers are not as broad as those of New Jersey’s attorney general, but that he’s been working closely with the crime commission’s task force to implement statewide immigration enforcement through what’s known as federal 287(g) training.

“I’m 100 percent in support of that kind of effort,” Mr. McDonnell said yesterday. “I’m a strong advocate that … sheriff’s departments make inquiries at the point of arrest.”

Virginia Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican and co-chairman of the task force, said state law already requires sheriffs and jail administrators to notify federal immigration officials when illegal aliens are convicted of certain crimes, but that the law isn’t always enforced due in part to lack of resources.

“That’s already the law, but sheriffs are not always doing it and don’t necessarily have all the resources to do it,” Mr. Albo said in an interview yesterday. “What we’re trying to do is exactly that — and do it so it works, not so it can be put in some brochure.”

A number of Virginia localities have enacted measures to crack down on illegal aliens.

The Manassas Park City Council is one of the latest jurisdictions to take action on illegal immigration.

Earlier this week, council members said they would monitor a Prince William County resolution on illegal aliens and, if the resolution withstands legal challenges, they would consider adopting similar measures.

Last month, Prince William County supervisors unanimously passed a resolution aimed at denying public services to illegal aliens and toughening local immigration enforcement.

Loudoun County supervisors passed a similar resolution the following week, and government officials in Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Chesterfield and James City counties have followed suit.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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