- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

Prince William County [Va.] supervisors have taken immigration enforcement into their own hands — an encouraging example for other jurisdictions that want to crack down on the influx of illegal aliens into their communities.

“I’m extremely excited about what Prince William County has done, and I certainly hope that kind of fans the fire of other municipalities across the state — including Culpeper,” said Culpeper Town Council member F. Steve Jenkins.

Culpeper County is one locality that appears to be taking Prince William County’s lead on addressing the cost of illegal aliens.

Prince William County supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to require police officers to ask about immigration status in all arrests if there is probable cause to believe that a suspect has violated federal immigration law. Supervisors also voted to require county staff to verify a person’s legal status before providing certain public services.

A report in January found Prince William spends at least $3 million on services to illegal aliens — a figure county officials think is an underestimate because it lacks data from public schools and the health department, which along with many other public agencies are not required by federal or state law to verify a person’s legal status before providing services.

Culpeper County released a similarly inconclusive report in April. The only county agency that had compiled data was Criminal Justice Services, which found that 133 illegal aliens performed community-service work worth about $70,475 at a cost of $30,443 to supervise them.

Culpeper County supervisors declined to say whether they plan to introduce a resolution similar to the one in Prince William County.

“Quite honestly, we’ve been waiting to see what happens in other jurisdictions,” said Steven E. Nixon, vice chairman of the seven-member Board of Supervisors. “You just don’t want to go into court if you don’t have to.”

Chesterfield County supervisors are waiting for the results of a study on the estimated cost of illegal aliens.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Kelly E. Miller, Dale District Republican, requested a similar report two years ago but said he commissioned another one because the results of the first were “inadequate.”

Mr. Miller said it’s premature to speculate what action the board would take or if it might follow Prince William County.

“First, we must garner the facts, try to quantify a problem, then see what our options are that are legally possible, and also practical,” he said.

Still, Mr. Miller said he is open to the possibility of joining a coalition of local governments to determine the impact of illegal aliens in their jurisdictions.

The Culpeper board’s rules committee on Tuesday discussed forming a coalition to work with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to determine what enforcement measures local governments legally can take and to lobby the General Assembly.

“To get help from the state legislature, we need to act as a group,” said Mr. Nixon, West Fairfax District Republican.

Supervisor Brad Rosenberger, Jefferson District Republican, said he would support a coalition.

“The inaction by the federal government is putting a tremendous burden on local governments,” he said. “It’s not a local problem we can actually solve, but we have to take measures in order to ease the tax burden” on citizens and legal residents.

The board’s rules committee also discussed a resolution declaring English as the county’s official language. The Code of Virginia already includes a provision declaring English as the commonwealth’s official language.

The county sheriff’s department plans to pursue federal training in immigration-enforcement procedures, Mr. Rosenberger said.

The town of Herndon recently became the first locality in the region to complete the training, authorized under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows state and local law-enforcement agencies to work with federal officials to identify and detain illegal aliens.

The Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center also recently completed training, and Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said he supports having some county officers trained.

Manassas police are in the process of establishing a formal agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin 287(g) training, Vice Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II said.

Other jurisdictions across the country also are trying to crack down on illegal aliens.

Last year, Hazelton, Pa., passed resolutions that included a fine on landlords who rent to illegal aliens and made English to the city’s official language. However, the resolutions have not been enforced because they are being challenged in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The other jurisdictions include Riverside, N.J.; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Tulsa, Okla. Tulsa also recently completed federal immigration training.

These measures are the latest indication that state and local governments are frustrated with the federal government’s failure to enact immigration reform, said Virginia Sen. Jay O’Brien, Fairfax County Republican.

Mr. O’Brien, who represents some areas of Prince William County, congratulated supervisors after their vote Tuesday night.

“They, like all 50 states and many local governments, are frustrated by the lack of federal action and a unified and enforced policy on immigration,” he said. “I think Prince William was absolutely correct, responsible and proper in what they did.”

Walter Tejada, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board, disagrees.

“A vocal, angry minority in their locality has manipulated the system … to convince the political leaders to enact a very punitive, anti-immigrant resolution,” he said. “We now see in Prince William County an example of government-sanctioned xenophobia. If anger and divisiveness is what they intended to achieve, they have succeeded.”

Virginia lawmakers have established a commission to investigate the effects of illegal aliens on the state and help local governments navigate potential legal challenges when establishing enforcement policies such as the one in Prince William.

The United States has an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens. More than 250,000 lived in Virginia in 2005, up from 50,000 in 1996, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

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