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Pr. William Passes Resolution Targeting Illegal Immigration

An overflow crowd at the Prince William government complex watches the board meeting on the immigration measure on TVs in the lobby.
An overflow crowd at the Prince William government complex watches the board meeting on the immigration measure on TVs in the lobby. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

The new version gives county workers 60 days to help board members determine which public services can be lawfully denied to illegal immigrants. Unlike the previous resolution, it specifies that services such as emergency medical care and other benefits mandated by law cannot be restricted. At the request of the county's attorneys, language was added to several sections to avoid violating federal and state laws.

A roughly equal number of speakers appeared to support and oppose the resolution. One was removed after berating Stirrup for a joke he made to Stewart at a previous meeting in which Stirrup suggested a "Hispanic flag" could be flown in Woodbridge, which has a relatively large Hispanic community.

Many speakers said they were Hispanic immigrants.

Immigrants "have built our homes; they have built our roads," said Hank Azais, who owns a tax preparation service catering to Hispanics in Manassas.

Others said they were worried about damage to the county's reputation. "Prince William County does not have to become the racist capital of America," said Harry Wiggins, a Lake Ridge resident.

Many Stirrup supporters told the board they applauded the measures and saw the effort as a last stand against rising crime, overcrowding and the failure of Hispanic newcomers to adapt to American culture.

"If we turn our heads and permit illegal entry into our county without making any effort or identification, we are saying our language, our culture, our Constitution, our neighborhoods and our flag are inconsequential," said Sue Fleming, a member of the group Help Save Manassas. "It is a price I do not care to pay."

Others decried rapid cultural changes in their communities. "I'm tired of pressing '1' for English" on the phone, Woodbridge resident Chris King said.

One element of Stirrup's resolution was noticeably absent from the amended version. It would have given residents the ability to sue county agencies if they suspected them of providing services to illegal immigrants. County staffers and supervisors expressed concern about the time and expense the county would potentially spend to fend off litigation.

Privately, though, several supervisors had expressed doubts about the implications of denying public services to immigrants. But given the political climate surrounding the issue, they said they felt compelled to back Stirrup.

"It's a start, and Mr. Stirrup was very gutsy," Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries) said.

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