PWC Anti-Immigrant Law: Enforcement, Cost, Allies, & Community Reaction

Can the PWC Police Enforce

Fairly?

At a community meeting, Lt. M.C.

Quattlebaum met with organizers, immigration attorneys, and activists.  He answered questions and tried to provide

assurance of the department’s commitment to fairness.  “The chief is required to investigate any

complaints of racial profiling,” he said, referring to police Chief Charlie T.

Deane.  Immigration attorney Eduardo

Ferrer asked about accountability within the department should a complaint be

made against an officer.  “It would be entirely

at the discretion of the Chief,” Quattlebaum said.  Throughout the meeting he emphasized that

local enforcement will be based on probable cause of undocumented status.

“If a resident, stopped by police

for a traffic infraction, is asked for driver’s license and vehicle

registration and provides Salvadoran or other foreign documents, or something

that looks like a photocopy of a document, then the officer will have probable

cause to request proof of legal status,” he explained.  Salvadorans are the largest Latino subgroup

in PWC.  “If we believe that someone is a

flight risk or will not show up in court, we can arrest the individual,”

Quattlebaum stated.

Enforcement Costs

Much More than Originally Calculated

Late in February, the county board

disclosed that their original cost estimates to enforce the law was wrong and

have corrected the figure.  The board of

supervisors has allocated $6.4 million for enforcement in 2008 alone.  The average monthly cost of police

enforcement currently runs at $533,333. 

This means that based on the Adult

Detention Center’s

January report of 54 inmates transferred to ICE, the cost per inmate for the

month was $9,876.54. 

An additional $26 million will be

needed for enforcement over the next five years.  This represents a 126% increase in cost.  To compensate for the budget shortfalls, the

county will be raising property taxes. 

Decision on the tax rate increased will be taken up at the next meeting

on March 18th.

The county police department was

asked to provide information on the number of immigrant arrests made since the

law went into effect on March 3rd

1st Sgt. Kim Chinn, speaking on behalf of the department,

said that a report will not be issued until after sixty days of implementation.

County board chair, Corey Stewart has

stated that residents agree and are willing to pay for the law.  Citizens, particularly seniors in fixed

income, and business owners are not as happy or as willing as Mr. Stewart

suggests.

Native Americans of

Virginia and other Allies Take it to Richmond

The Occoneechee Saponi Indian Tribe

of Virginia is in unity with Latino immigrants and community leaders in Prince William

County.  On March 2nd, as the Latino

immigrant population braced for the enforcement of the law by the police

department, the tribe offered itself as a place of refuge for immigrants who

may have to leave the county.  “We have

housing and employment opportunities for you,” Barry Carter, tribe chair,

stated.

On February 28th, Carter, wrote and

mailed a 4-page letter to the entire Virginia

legislature.  In it, the tribe asked

legislators on both chambers to vote NO on 28 legislative proposals currently

moving through the legislative process in Richmond.  The proposals are anti-immigrant as a whole

or in part.

Other allies are joining in the

ranks of Latino immigrant supporters. 

The Curran Family, of Newport

News, travels around the state to show support.  Dan and Fabiola Curran, a white and Puerto

Rican couple with their children, travel around the Commonwealth in their

efforts.  They have gone to the state’s

capitol to advocate directly with legislators and have come to Prince William

to be with Latino immigrants.  Dan Curran

stated that it is necessary to continue to build alliances with the white

community.  “They have to know the impact

of this law to the community, from an economic development perspective, and to

their own personal pocketbooks,” he said.

Other Citizens React

Citizens’ reaction varies depending

on their level of familiarity with the issues involved.  Those who are less familiar with the details

of the law, its costs, and impact on communities, tend to agree with

enforcement.  Most regular citizens are

not aware that federal law already denies public welfare and social security

benefits, among others, to the undocumented. 

“I don’t want those people who cross the border illegally to end up in

Prince William using up our tax dollars,” said a white volunteer fire fighter.

Ginger, a white, middle-aged

citizen, long-term resident of the county, was appalled.  She owns two Laundromats, one in Dumfries and

one in Woodbridge.  “I cannot believe this is happening.  It is discrimination, and feels like a witch

hunt or something out of Germany

during Hitler.  There is so much fear and

anger in the area.  We can feel it,” she

stated.  Regarding the expected tax

increase, Ginger said “We will be speaking at citizens’ time during the open

hearings on the FY2009 budget.  My mother,

who will be 70 in September, agrees that it is time we start contacting

Governor Tim Kaine.  She wants to know

how seniors on fixed income will be able to afford this tax.”

Kelly, an African American,

middle-aged citizen, professional working in finance, 12-year county resident,

who commutes back and forth to Arlington,

said “this is going to have a significant impact on taxpayers.  I am very unhappy about the projections.  Is this an issue of who does or does not pay

taxes?” she asked.

Diane, an African American,

middle-aged citizen, vice-president for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, 24-year

county resident, asked “Can’t you make these people taxpayers?  If the issue is their lack of economic

contribution, why not put them in a path to citizenship and have them pay taxes?  Then, they will also be protected from

exploitation,” concluded Diane.

            Both women

were surprised to hear that there are existing laws that penalize employers who

hire undocumented immigrants with stiff penalties.  Similarly, they were surprised to hear that

their common-sense approach to the issue more or less described the nature of

comprehensive immigration reform, which failed to pass last year in Congress.  Both women agreed that the government is not

focused on making things work but rather on scapegoating people.

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