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Pr. William's Immigration Crackdown Lands 41 in Jail

Police Chief Charlie T. Deane speaking with immigration lawyer Elinor Tesfamariam after a recent meeting on the county's new immigration policy.
Police Chief Charlie T. Deane speaking with immigration lawyer Elinor Tesfamariam after a recent meeting on the county's new immigration policy. (By Giuliana Nakashima -- The Washington Post)
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By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 6, 2008

Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said most of the people arrested during the first month of the county's illegal immigration crackdown would have gone to jail anyway.

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Of the 89 people questioned about their citizenship status, 41 were taken to the county's adult detention center. Although officers have reason to think the 41 people arrested are in the country illegally, all but two were charged with a series of misdemeanors and felonies unrelated to their immigration status.

"Most of [the arrests] would have been made anyway," Deane said during a news conference last week to provide details about the county's first month of increased illegal immigration enforcement.

Seven people were charged with felonies, including attempted murder, cocaine possession and shoplifting. Thirty-two people were charged with misdemeanors, which included public drunkenness, domestic assault and lack of a driver's license. Two others were detained on immigration-related charges.

The Board of County Supervisors voted last fall to direct officers to check the citizenship or immigration status of suspects they think might be in the country illegally. The measure took effect March 3.

Of the 89 people questioned about their residency status, two were found to be in the country legally, Deane said.

Among those thought to be in the country illegally, 21 were released without charges and 25 were given citations for minor offenses. Police are referring the 87 cases to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Our job is to communicate that" to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Deane said. "What happens after that is out of our hands."

To put the numbers into perspective, Prince William police officers generally make 1,100 arrests a month, Deane said.

Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) said that the first month's numbers were consistent with his expectations but that it's too early to determine the long-term effect.

"The reports I've been getting narratively are strong endorsements that criminal activity has reduced," he said. "The presence of [illegal immigrants] has significantly reduced. It's had a positive impact."

Deane said he is concerned about perceptions in the community that police will set up checkpoints to question people about their citizenship status.

"We don't do immigration road blocks; we are not going to sweep day-labor sites," he said.

Deane held a community meeting with Mexican Consul General Enrique Escorza to clear up misinformation and to quell fears about the scope of the county's illegal immigration policies.

The cost of the illegal immigration measures for the first year will be $6.4 million. It is one of several public safety initiatives in the county's budget for fiscal 2009, which begins July 1.

Supervisors advertised a real estate property tax rate of $1 per $100 of assessed value for the upcoming budget year. If adopted, it would boost average homeowner tax bills by 8.25 percent.

Supervisors will have a public hearing on the proposed property tax increase tomorrow night. During the Tuesday evening session, the board is scheduled to vote on the transfer of 230 acres of parkland in the western end of the county, commonly referred to as Silver Lake, to one of three recreational entities. The land, east of Antioch Road, is valued at $3 million.


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