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Bloggings: States Want Strict Immigration Law That Virginia Already Has, by: Danielle Beach-Oswald

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Arizona's Immigration Law S.B. 1070 made national news when it was passed by state
legislation in 2010, and again when the Supreme Court sustained the law's centerpiece
in June of this year. Ever since the inception of the Arizona law that stirred
national attention, several states have called for their own tough immigration law.
In a recent Quinnipiac poll question, 62% of Virginian respondents favored a policy
requiring police officers to check the immigration status of those suspected of being
in the country illegally.


Many proponents would be surprised to learn that their state already had a strict
immigration law passed.. In 2008, two years before Arizona made national news, Prince
William County in Virginia had already passed a law that requires officers to check
every person they arrest to determine whether they're in the country legally. In
addition to arrests, Virginia had mandated checks on admission to a state hospital,
to obtain a driver's license, Medicaid benefits and, in some cases, employment.
Virginia Delegate Bob MacDonnell said, "We were pushing the envelope before anyone
else was."


While the Prince William ordinance pushed the envelope before Arizona, it raised concern
and ire before Arizona as well. In addition to concern from immigrants and the public,
criticism of the ordinance came from the county's Police Chief, Charlie Deane. Similar
to Arizona's S.B. 1070, many worried that the ordinance would be costly to taxpayers,
lead to accusations of racial profiling, and damage police-community relations. After
only eight weeks, the ordinance was suspended and modified to address unconstitutional
charges. The revision directed officers to question all criminal suspects about their
immigration status once an arrest was made, rather than questioning only people
suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Police Chief Deane said of the ordinance,
"We made it very clear... that we were going to focus on individuals who had committed
crimes, and that we were going to protect crime victims and witnesses regardless of
their status, and we were not going to do racial profiling, roadblocks, sweeps or
employment investigations."


Studies show that the Prince Williams ordinance may have done what it set out to
accomplish. The Prince Williams county police department paid for a study conducted by
the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum that looked at data
from 2007 through 2009. The 2010 study showed that initial fears about racial profiling
had not been realized but still found that the number of illegal immigrants in the
county had been reduced and violent crime had dropped, although it was inconclusive
whether the drop was an effect of the policy.


The sheer subtlety and effectiveness of the Prince William ordinance suggests that
reasonable states immigration laws are attainable. If states like Arizona are able to
modify their immigration laws to more closely resemble the Prince William ordinance,
then illegal immigration may be able to be enforced without racial profiling, and while
remaining constitutional.


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