Final resolution has less bite

The final anti-illegal immigration resolution is a watered-down version of the one introduced in July by Prince William Supervisor John T. Stirrup, R-Gainesville.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors unanimously passed the county ordinance in the wee hours of Wednesday, after listening to comments from area residents for more than 12 hours.

The ordinance prevents illegal immigrants from getting business licenses and authorizes a seven-member Criminal Alien Police unit, along with training in immigration law for roughly 500 county police officers.

Eight county services – four dealing with the elderly and disabled – also will be denied to illegal immigrants.

The ordinance denies in-home medical services for elderly and disabled illegal immigrants; in-home services for aging illegal immigrants, which may include safety assessments of dwellings; adult identification services, which include fingerprinting for the elderly and disabled who may wander away from home; and an elderly disabled tax relief program.

Tax exemptions for home renovations, rental and mortgage assistance, substance abuse programs for jail inmates and a substance abuse outreach program for juveniles also will be denied to illegal immigrants.

The county cannot deny services that are funded by state or federal money, including education and health care.

Prince William Supervisor Martin E. Nohe, R-Coles, wrote the final resolution, which put some stringent checks and balances in place.

County staff will also develop a community outreach program to educate the public on what the resolution does and doesn’t do.

Nohe said people who supported the resolution should not expect all illegal immigrants to be rounded up tomorrow.

“That’s not gonna happen,” Nohe said. “On the other hand you’ve got people in the immigrant community who are afraid – who also think that we’re going to have mass deportations and racial profiling and we’re not going to do that either.”

According to the resolution, the county will enter into a partnership with an independent, non-partisan consulting group to monitor the effects on the community.

Staff members will report in August 2008 on the effectiveness of the new ordinance, enforcement data, workload and how racial profiling is being prevented.

The partnership with an independent firm will, in part, help ensure that racial profiling doesn’t occur, Nohe said.

County staff will also develop a community outreach program to educate the public on what the resolution does and doesn’t do.

The board also authorized $525,000 for the police department to form a Criminal Alien Unit, consisting of six detectives and one crime analyst, who will enforce immigration law.

Police will also begin checking the legal status of people they stop in their routine duties, if they determine there is probable cause to do so.

The board recently transferred $900,000 in carry-over money to the police department to begin paying for the program that will cost $14.2 million over five years.

But state budget cuts reduced the police department’s budget by $525,000, leaving the department with $325,000 to get the program started this fiscal year.

Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart, R-at large, has suggested taking this year’s difference from the county’s contingency fund which contains about $796,000.

While Stewart supports using money from the contingency fund, he would leave it to staff to find a way to support the new ordinance, saying illegal immigration was the “top priority of the board.”

“They may take the money from the contingency fund, but we didn’t require them to do that,” he said.

The initial resolution would have had every county agency that dealt with the public checking for legal status before providing county services.

Under Stirrup’s first proposal police would have been directed to determine the legal status of every person they stopped for violations of state law or county ordinance.

It also would have allowed anyone to sue the county government if they determined county employees weren’t verifying legal status.