When it comes to the undocumented and foreign born, there’s been a certain ugliness in Prince William County since 2007.
That year, the county, led by Supervisor Corey A. Stewart, adopted special measures to have the police check the immigration status of anyone arrested.
The point was clear. Experiencing a boom at the time, Prince William had seen a wave of housing construction that brought in many Latino workers, some of whom were in the United States illegally. When the housing market crashed, some of the Hispanics stayed. The laws were intended to drive them away.
Five years later, Stewart is complaining that the Feds are changing the rules and ruining his game. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has told the county that it is phasing out agreements that allow local police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested. Now, they can only check the detained person against a database of those who have come into contact with federal immigration authorities.
ICE’s point seems to be that local cop-rousting should be directed only at immigrants who are here illegally and have committed or been accused of serious crimes. Stewart says Prince William has a duty to protect its citizens, even though the federal, not local, government is empowered to handle international immigration.
Some Republicans like Stewart have gotten plenty of attention by exploiting the immigration issue. It has been good for them, and the Prince William experience has resonated with backers of a new sort of “Americans First” movement along with Arizona and Alabama.
The problem is that this style of immigrant-bashing is getting a bit old. It really hasn’t come up all that much in the presidential elections. What’s more, records show that President Obama has deported 1.5 million illegal immigrants, more than his Republican predecessor George W. Bush did, according to The Post.
That fact tends to take some steam out of the movement by Stewart, who wants to share PrinceWilliam’s approach with other counties and states. Let’s hope cooler and more compassionate heads prevail.