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In PW, a Weaker or Stronger Immigration Policy?

Steve Fehr

A week after the Prince William Board of County Supervisors changed its hallmark illegal immigration enforcement, supervisors continue to argue over whether it was rolled back or expanded.

The board voted unanimously last Tuesday to direct police officers to question criminal suspects about their immigration status after an arrest is made. The policy the board approved in October ordered officers to check the legal status of all suspects, no matter how minor the offense, if they had reason to believe the person might be in the country unlawfully.

Officers can continue to use their discretion about when to question a criminal suspect about their residency status.

Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) said the decision "significantly weakened the so-called crackdown." Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) maintains the board's change strengthened police enforcement.

"There is a wide gap of inaccurate information out there," Principi said. "As elected officials, we need to set the record straight and make sure everyone understands the policy modifications and intentions."

The shift in policy was necessitated when the board slashed $3.1 million from its budget to install video cameras on police cars. Principi called the budget cut for cameras the "instigating factor in forcing a change to the police arrest policy."

The change protects residents from arbitrary immigration checks, Principi said, in an attempt to allay fears in the immigrant community.

"The board's action signifies that Prince William County has turned a corner on this debate and that we are ready to move forward on the core mission of local government, enhancing everyone's quality of life," he said. "I pray we can put this behind us."

By Steve Fehr  |  May 6, 2008; 3:01 PM ET
Categories:  Kristen Mack , Prince William  
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