Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane yesterday stood behind his proposal to toughen local immigration enforcement and reiterated his department’s commitment to community trust — especially among the immigrant community.
Chief Deane presented the results of a 60-day study to meet a July mandate from the Board of County Supervisors for police to verify the immigration status of all lawbreakers if an officer has probable cause to think the suspect is an illegal alien.
“We are committed to implement the board”s directive in a fair, lawful and reasonable manner,” he told supervisors at a work session.
In a 90-minute presentation — interrupted by testy exchanges among supervisors — Chief Deane also said his department’s primary goal is community safety, which includes the cooperation of victims and witnesses who are illegal aliens.
“Think about the term ‘silent victims,’ ” he said. “We want to make sure we do what we can to take care of those people and reassure them that we’re not going to use their immigration status against them.”
The new policy does not require board approval, but the board must authorize the creation of 25 new police staff positions.
Training, staff and public-outreach costs of the policy are estimated to exceed $14 million over five years — which prompted a heated exchange among Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart and Supervisors Maureen S. Caddigan and John D. Jenkins.
“It’s not going to break the bank — it’s not going to cause any significant increase on anybody’s tax bill,” said Mr. Stewart, at-large Republican. “You can come up with all the excuses you want not to support this crackdown.”
Mrs. Caddigan, Dumfries Republican, accused Mr. Stewart of political posturing.
“You’ve already talked to the police and firemen — you’ve promised them a great deal of things because it’s endorsement time and election time,” she said. “Don’t promise things and then vote ‘no’ on a budget. Taxes are going to be raised not because of this, but because our assessments are down and we have children to educate. That’s what I’m saying. Please don’t put words in my mouth.”
Mr. Stewart is pushing for a vote Oct. 2, the day supervisors are scheduled to hear a separate report from County Executive Craig S. Gerhart on denying public services to illegal aliens, which was part of the July resolution.
“Why Oct. 2? That’s not budget time,” said Mr. Jenkins, Neabsco Democrat. “We don’t have to vote on this until budget time.”
“We need to get this ball rolling,” Mr. Stewart replied. “And if we’re going to do this, the staff needs to know as soon as possible.”
Details on internal training are being planned, but will begin by January, Chief Deane said.
Representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the offices of the county attorney, Virginia attorney general and U.S. attorney were on hand to answer board members’ questions.
The board also heard from about 20 residents — both for and against the policy.
“There’s a reason that immigration law is a federal power: It is far too complex and too costly for local governments to take on,” said Nancy Lyall, a spokeswoman for the illegal-alien-advocacy group Mexicans Without Borders. “We’re just jeopardizing the stability of this county.”
Under the new policy, an officer may arrest an illegal alien if the person is found to be a previously deported felon listed in the National Crime Information Center database, the officer receives confirmation from ICE, and ICE issues a criminal immigration detainer, or hold, on the suspect.
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.
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 time.
Victims of crimes and witnesses will not be subject to routine immigration checks.
Part of Chief Deane’s implementation strategy includes a public-education campaign and plans for a two-year study of the policy’s effectiveness.