The Prince William Board of County Supervisors yesterday delayed votes to further restrict services to illegal aliens and to require local police to check the immigration status of all lawbreakers.
Board members pushed back the decisions until Oct. 16 after learning that the county stands to lose $575,000, which state officials have considered cutting as part of a plan to close a $641 million budget gap.
Officials said they will have a clearer picture of the county”s financial outlook — and whether the funding will be available to implement the board’s actions — after a budget retreat scheduled for Oct. 11.
Corey A. Stewart, the board chairman, remained optimistic that the county would allocate the $2.5 million needed to fund a new seven-member Criminal Alien Unit, a major recommendation that the police chief detailed last month.
“I think the cost of doing nothing about illegal immigration — particularly criminal illegal immigrants — that cost is excessive and something the community is not willing to bear any longer,” said Mr. Stewart, a Republican.
Mr. Stewart said the plan would add a half-cent to the local property-tax rate if the county had to absorb the entire cost, and that the police force should be able to check a person’s legal status when they deem there is probable cause.
The decision to delay the vote was made before a crowd of about 400 and after almost fours hours of testimony from dozens of concerned residents and presentations from county staff. Several staff members said the additional taxpayer benefits the county would reap from blocking services to illegal aliens is minimal.
Assistant County Executive Melissa S. Peacor told the board that it could, among other things, require children in Little League to prove their citizenship. She said officials could prevent people from using recreational facilities and senior centers but could not prevent illegal aliens from receiving meals at senior centers.
The board also was told it could revisit a county ordinance that exempts license applications for business owners who make less than $100,000.
Although the county would not financially benefit from a revamped ordinance, it could deter employers who hire illegal aliens.
The majority of the residents who spoke characterized the resolutions as “divisive,” “xenophobic” and an attempt at “ethnic cleansing.”
“We find the spirit of this resolution racist,” said Ricardo Juarez, president of Mexicans without Borders, who delivered a large cardboard box stuffed with 7,000 petitions against the resolution.
Meanwhile, proponents asked board members to do what is within their power to enforce “the rule of law” and warned board members of political repercussions should they back off their promise to increase enforcement and restrict services to illegal aliens.
“You must support this resolution,” said Greg Letiecq, president of Help Save Manassas, a citizen group calling for tougher immigration laws. “If not, the consequences will be dire — and I can guarantee that.”
Prince William County, about 35 miles south of the District, has struggled with an influx of illegal aliens and related problems, including overburdened government services.
The county population increased from roughly 281,000 in 2000 to 347,000 in 2005, census figures show. The Hispanic population nearly doubled during that period, from 9.7 percent to roughly 18 percent of county residents.
Prince William officials found in a study released in January that their agencies spent more than $3 million last year on public services for illegal aliens.