Correction to This Article
The article about a joint meeting between Gerald E. Connolly (D) and Gary H. Baise (R), candidates for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, incorrectly quoted reported a statement by Connolly, the incumbent. Connolly said Tysons Corner would not have urban-size density in the future.

The Dividing Line on Illegal Immigrants

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said yesterday that under no circumstances would he follow the lead of Prince William County and push for legislation to cut off services to illegal immigrants or authorize police to check the immigration status of suspects, measures he described as election season demagoguery.

"I can just tell you Fairfax County is not going to go the route of some of our neighbors," Connolly, who is seeking a second term as chairman Nov. 6, said during a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors. "We're not going to demagogue. We're not going to essentially roll back the welcome mat. . . . That's not why I ran for office and that isn't who we are, and we're not going to do that."

Connolly's Republican challenger, Gary H. Baise, said at the joint meeting that if elected he would push to enroll Fairfax police in a program run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that gives selected officers instant access to federal immigration data.

Fairfax Sheriff Stan G. Barry announced this month that his deputies will enter the federal immigration program to screen suspects already in custody. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted last week to allow police to check the immigration status of someone during a routine traffic stop if there is probable cause to believe that person is an illegal resident.

"We do need to look very carefully at expanding the 287 (g) program," said Baise, referring to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Connolly cautioned that such an expansion would drive a dangerous wedge between police and immigrants -- making them reluctant to cooperate with investigations -- and heighten the danger of racial profiling by officers. He said Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer would be reluctant to involve his officers.

"We need their cooperation for public safety and health," Connolly said of immigrants.

Connolly declined to specify who he believed was exploiting the illegal immigration issue for political gain. But it seemed clear he was referring to Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R), who has made the illegal-immigrant crackdown a centerpiece of his reelection campaign. Stewart has frequently accused the Fairfax board of being lax on the immigration issue.

Baise, who has taken an understated approach to the issue in his own campaign, defended Stewart.

"I don't think Corey Stewart is demagoguing the issue," he said. "Corey Stewart is trying to act responsibly and trying to figure out what is the situation in Prince William County."

Connolly said the county's approach would not change despite Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin's announcement last week that his staff will study which services can and cannot be denied to illegal immigrants. This mirrors initial actions taken by Loudoun and Prince William.

Connolly said that Griffin undertook the study expressly at the request of Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and that it would have no impact on the current policy of policing illegal behavior -- in the form of residential overcrowding or other violations -- instead of determining immigration status.

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