Illegal aliens’ services study done

The three-month study to determine which county services can be denied to illegal immigrants is done.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will hear a report on the results of the study Tuesday.

The report shows which services the county already restricts, which services it cannot restrict and which services the county could restrict but probably shouldn’t because of cost, health and inconvenience to legal residents.

Staff will recommend that the supervisors pass a resolution that restricts illegal immigrants from participating in substance abuse programs in the Prince William-Manassas regional jail, rental and mortgage assistance to the homeless, services to allow elderly and disabled to remain in their homes, adult day care, the elderly-disabled tax relief program, Bluebird Bus Tours, tax exemptions for renovating residential property, in-home care for the aged and programs at the county’s senior centers.

Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart, R-at large, said he appreciated the work that went into the report.

“I’m absolutely pleased that county staff did a thorough job,” Stewart said. “They spent a lot of time – every department going through every service – to see what could be cut. I’m convinced that they’ve identified some things they’re going to be able to cut off to illegal immigrants.”

The county already restricts voter registration, concealed weapons permits, all police licensing, food stamps, temporary assistance for needy families, Medicaid funding for all human services, burial assistance, employment services, state and local hospitalization services, mental health vocational services, Section 8 housing, home ownership assistance loans and transitional housing. Staff already verifies legal status before rendering the services.

One of the services that would probably cost too much to restrict would be electronic government services, since all residents would have to come to county offices in person to conduct county business, said Liz Bahrns, Prince William County spokeswoman.

The county processes 250,000 electronic transactions annually and that equates to $10 million in business, Bahrns said.

Restricting services at libraries would also cost too much.

Libraries would have to be remodeled and the county would have to hire more people so that legal status could be checked at every library, said County Executive Craig Gerhart.

Additionally, all library registrations would have to be done in person, Gerhart said.

Other services that probably shouldn’t be restricted because of health and safety concerns include fire and rescue and crime prevention services.

Substance abuse programs for pregnant women and minors at schools, services to the seriously mentally ill and the mentally retarded and the homeless shelter should not be restricted, the report states.

Restricting access to recreation centers, pools, water parks, golf courses, batting cages and boating would also be cost prohibitive since all registration activities would have to be done in person, facilities would have to be remodeled and extra staff would have to be hired to verify legal status.

It would also be impractical to police county parks to verify legal status, the report showed.

Stewart agreed that if it costs too much, some services shouldn’t be restricted.

“Obviously if it would cost us more to restrict the service than the savings that we would retrieve, then it clearly wouldn’t make any sense to do that,” Stewart said.

Restricting illegal immigrants from using the county landfill would also be impractical because it would be bad for the community if people started dumping their trash somewhere other than the landfill, Gerhart said.

The county doesn’t require business owners who gross less than $100,000 annually to have business licenses. The resolution would change county code to require licenses for such businesses, Bahrns said.

Stewart said he hopes the board supports the change in county code.

“My feeling is that that would be a good way to crack down on illegal immigrants who are operating without a license,” he said.

Federal, state or county laws prevent restricting emergency medical services, sheriff services such as warrants and evictions, medical care to inmates at the jail, juvenile court services and emergency service calls.

Services for the aged that are funded all or in part with money from the Older Americans Act, health department services, child protective services, foster care, at-risk youth services and juvenile detention services cannot be restricted.

Human rights investigations, Freedom of Information Act requests and county publications are also among the services that cannot be restricted.

If the supervisors vote to pass the resolution, the police department would be able to hire six detectives and a crime analyst to form the Criminal Alien Unit, which would work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration law.