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October 18, 2007

Prince William County Cracks Down on Illegals

Citizens and legal residents have become more and more irritated by the federal government's inability to curb illegal immigration. I doubt that the issue has become more pressing in the past three years, but we're certainly acting like it has. Now comes local action.

Prince William County has put in place new restrictions on illegal immigrants. The county supervisors approved a plan that will deny county services to illegal immigrants including drug counseling and some services for the elderly. It will also prevent illegals from receiving business licenses. Police officers are now instructed to inquire into the immigration status of crime suspects.

Like most local immigration actions, these are a mix of good and bad ideas. Regarding services provided by the county, Prince William County resident Robert Stephens has it partially right:

"Where do you get off demanding services, rights and mandatory citizenship?" said Manassas resident Robert Stephens, addressing the large crowd of Hispanic residents, reported the Post. "Who invited you? You cry for your rights? You have none."

County services are a benefit the county may bestow or deny as it wishes, so long as it does so without discriminating by race or gender (or disability, probably). Contrary to the assertions of immigrant groups who have already filed lawsuits against the county, illegal immigrants are not entitled to county benefits under the Equal Protection Clause.

Stephens hits very wide of the mark, however, when he says that illegals have no rights. We'll hope that his hyperbolic exclamation was prompted by high emotions during the 12 hour session. Illegals have rights, just not all the rights of citizens or even the rights of legal residents.

The one part of this plan that gives me pause is its direction that county police officers make inquiry into the immigration status of those they suspect of crimes. If that's as far as it goes then there is no problem. Criminal illegal immigrants should be deported as soon as they're discovered.

However, county officials must see to it that crime victims who are illegals have no fear of calling the police for help. The point of localities cracking down on illegals is to cut down crime rates (at least, according to the Prince William county supervisors), not create a category of residents among whom crime will go unchecked. That's a recipe for rampant expansion of crimes against persons and property and dangerous self-help justice.

UPDATE: There was a good article on states taking action on illegal immigration in Monday's Washington Post.

The number of states passing immigration-related bills has skyrocketed this year. No fewer than 1,404 pieces of immigration-related legislation were introduced in legislatures during the first half of 2007, with 182 bills becoming law in 43 states. That is more than double the number of immigration-related state laws enacted during all of 2006, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:08 PM

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