Suit won't deter Pr. William leader's immigration law push

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona's controversial immigration law won't stop Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart's campaign to bring a similar law to Virginia.

If anything, said Stewart (R-At Large), he will push harder to get legislation passed at the state level that would enhance police officials' power to capture, detain and deport illegal immigrants and create specific Virginia penalties for illegal immigrants.

"I think the Obama administration has made a strategic blunder," Stewart said. "The Justice Department is going to have egg on its face when its case is dismissed. Arizona is on very firm legal footing, and the administration is just trying to intimidate Arizona."

Last month, Stewart launched the Virginia Rule of Law Campaign to rally support for Virginia immigration legislation. Stewart said Virginia needs to follow in Arizona's footsteps, even if it sends President Obama's administration after the commonwealth.

"I hope the Justice Department sues Virginia, as well," he said. "I hope they have so many targets that they are unable to focus on Arizona. . . . Every state that supports Arizona should implement a similar law to make it impossible for the [federal government] to focus on any one state or jurisdiction."

Prince William has received national attention for its crackdown on illegal immigration. The county's law, enacted in 2007 and modified in 2008, requires that police officers check the immigration status of all people arrested on suspicion of violating a state or local law. Stewart said his campaign for a Virginia law is his own, not something he is doing as chairman of the board.

"I think this is very irresponsible of someone who has lived in the county and seen the kind of devastation this kind of legislation can cause," said Nancy Lyall of the immigrant advocacy group Mexicans Without Borders.

Lyall said Prince William's immigration law hurt the county by damaging the relationship between police and some community members, draining county funds and harming businesses as people fled the county. Why, she asked, would Stewart want that to happen at the state level?

Although Virginia is strapped for cash, Stewart said a lawsuit and the money it could cost would be worth it. Stewart said he plans to release his proposed bill in the next few days. Many people have supported Arizona's actions, Stewart said, and he expects the same in Virginia. As of Friday, he had about 500 people following his Virginia Rule of Law Campaign page on Facebook.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company