Prince William County's strict—and controversial—immigration policy has just been dealt a blow.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart delivered a scathing rebuke of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Board meeting Tuesday, after he announced that ICE will no longer fund the 287(g) program that delegates immigration enforcement responsibilities to trained law enforcement officials. The program will expire on Dec. 31, 2012.
Stewart—who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor—slammed the decision not to renew the program as political: "This administration is playing politics with your safety."
"We have a duty to protect our citizens. If someone commits a crime and they’re here illegally, they should be deported," Stewart said.
The 287(g) program is a partnership with ICE and local law enforcement where select personnel from the Adult Detention Center, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are specially trained by ICE to screen and investigate whether those committing crimes are legally residing in the community, according to a county news release.
ICE has instead recommended that local law enforcement use the Secure Communities database—which Stewart characterized as far less effective than the partnership that has been in place for nearly five years. He said that over 5,000 criminals have been deported as a result of the 287(g) program. He also said that violent crime has decreased by 48.7 percent since the program was instituted.
That implication of that statistic about violent crime has been disputed by others before. Politifact rated previous statements by Stewart to that effect as "mostly false." And the county and others who have followed in its lead have come under criticism from some advocates, such as the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project.
Despite the criticism, the county had asked for a three-year extension of the program.
"There has not been a single substantiated case of racial profiling," Stewart said at the meeting Tuesday.
"The 287(g) program is a key element to the County’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Policy, which has been recognized as a model program to identify and report criminal illegal immigrants without engaging in racial profiling," according to a county release.
The county filed a lawsuit against ICE in August 2011, after ICE did not respond to the county's two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information about prisoners local law enforcement handed over.
“This is further evidence that ICE is abdicating its responsibilities,” said Stewart. “They won’t respond to our FOIA requests, they refuse to discuss the issues we are facing, and now they are seeking a way to end the 287(g) program, which allows them to use the services of local law enforcement to help them carry out their mission.”