- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prince William County police will be required to verify the immigration status of anybody violating Virginia or county laws if an officer has probable cause to think a suspect is an illegal alien, under a general order proposed by Police Chief Charlie T. Deane.

Chief Deane is scheduled to present a 107-page report today at a work session of the Board of County Supervisors, which voted unanimously in July to mandate a more stringent immigration-enforcement policy.

The report also includes information on a public-education campaign and estimated costs of implementing the new policy, which are estimated to exceed $14 million over five years.

County Executive Craig S. Gerhart is scheduled to present a separate report Oct. 2 on denying public services to illegal aliens, which was part of the resolution in July. A vote date has not been set, county spokeswoman Liz Bahrns said.

An officer may arrest an illegal alien if the suspect is found to be a previously deported felon listed in the National Crime Information Center database, the officer receives confirmation from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and ICE issues a criminal immigration detainer, or hold, on the suspect, according to the proposal.

The national crime database has about 250,000 records. ICE each month adds 5,000 to 8,000 records, including criminal-immigration warrants and civil ones, also known as administrative warrants of removal.

An officer also may arrest an illegal alien if the database shows an outstanding civil-immigration warrant and if the officer has charged the suspect for a separate crime under which he or she may be released on a court summons. An officer may consider the civil-immigration warrant as a factor in determining whether the suspect is likely to disregard the summons, and subsequently may arrest him or her, the proposal states.

Officers may not arrest solely because a person is an illegal alien or on the existence of a civil-immigration warrant. And they may not arrest only because an illegal alien is a previously deported felon if ICE does not issue a hold within a reasonable amount of time.

Greg Letiecq, president of the anti-illegal-alien group Help Save Manassas, which lobbied for the original resolution, applauded the police department’s efforts.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good first step,” he said. “It’s going to be easily defensible from the civil rights perspective. This seems like a very responsible approach, and I didn’t expect anything less from the police department.”

Victims of crimes and witnesses will not be subject to routine immigration checks, according to the report, the result of a 60-day department study.

The report also emphasizes that racial profiling is illegal and quotes a department policy that prohibits officers from stopping a person based on “race, color, ethnicity, or other non-criminal traits.”

Despite these assurances, the new policy will undermine the relationship between the immigrant community and county police, said Nancy Lyall, a spokeswoman for Mexicans Without Borders, which organized a weeklong boycott of some county businesses to protest the resolution.

“The practical reality is there are people in the community who have heard the stories of a brother or cousin stopped for failing to signal and then deported,” Ms. Lyall said. “That will [spread] through the community. It’s so much louder and so much stronger than the public campaign, they might as well not even do it.”

The proposed general order establishes a standard of probable cause according to existing case law and establishes guidelines for verification of legal presence according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Identification and documents that may be used to prove legal presence include a valid Virginia driver’s license or special identification card issued after Jan. 1, 2004, a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, a certificate of naturalization, a resident-alien card or a valid foreign passport with a visa.

The county police department has sent a letter to ICE requesting participation in the 287(g) program, which allows local law-enforcement agencies to begin deportation proceedings for some illegal aliens. The resolution by county supervisors in July directed police to enroll in 287(g), which already is in place at the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center.

It’s impossible to quantify the positive financial effects of removing illegal aliens from the county — especially the effect on public safety, residential overcrowding, schools, hospitals and other areas, Mr. Letiecq said.

“There’s this ephemeral unknown of what the positive impact is going to be,” he said.

Ms. Lyall said the $14 million should be used on programs to strengthen the community. “Instead, it’s being used to rip our community apart,” she said.

Details on internal training are being planned but it will begin by January, the report states. The report also calls for a two-year study of the policy’s effectiveness.

Several other Virginia jurisdictions have passed or considered immigration-related resolutions, including Chesterfield, Culpeper, James City, Loudoun, Page, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the city of Manassas.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide