- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors last night approved an addition to its 2-month-old crackdown on illegal immigrants, considered one of the most aggressive in country.

With the board’s decision, county police can verify the immigration status of anyone they arrest, even for minor infractions such as speeding or jaywalking. Before, they needed probable cause to think the person was in the country illegally.

Supervisor Frank J. Principi, Woodbridge Democrat, said earlier this month that he wanted to repeal the legislation that allowed the crackdown, in part because the board voted to strip $3.1 million earmarked for cameras in police cruisers from the roughly $6.5 million budgeted to enforce the new policies next year. He said the cut would result in a lack of civil rights protections.

The vote followed more than six hours of testimony from about 100 people, who were split on the issue.

“If [people] enter our country illegally, they should be deported, whether they are a criminal or not,” said Walter Menz of Woodbridge.

Said Jeanne Mitche of Dumfries: “I have been deeply saddened by what I have seen happen to Prince William County.”

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart led the effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

“This will increase the number of people who will have their immigration status checked,” the Republican said after the vote.

The board approved the resolution in October, denying county-funded public services to illegal immigrants and authorizing police to check the immigration status of a detainee when they have probable cause to think the person violated immigration laws.

A motion by Mr. Principi that would allow police to check the immigration status of a suspect only after the person is put in jail was defeated on a 7-1 vote earlier in the evening.

The enforcement began March 3 after officers were trained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

As of April 1, police said they had had contact with 89 illegal immigrants and that 46 received a ticket but were not arrested or detained.

As local governments across the country face tight budgets as the result of the slowing economy, the cost of the police training, housing those arrested and the price of the cameras likely will continue to be an issue.

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