With all the buzz about Arizona’s immigration law this past summer, one might have thought the border state had literally launched an attack on Mexico. Before then, Prince William County, Va., adopted a vigorous 287(g) program in October 2007 to rid the county of its burgeoning illegal alien problem.
The 287(g) program, which the Obama administration has substantially weakened, enables state and local police to help systematically enforce immigration violations. Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio operates a vigorous 287(g) initiative in his county.
These locales are the poster children for the “attrition through enforcement” strategy for reducing illegal immigration.
A recent final report by the University of Virginia has found that Prince William County’s popular law enforcement initiative, which is similar to that of Arizona, has benefited the county and worked effectively.
That county’s Latino population swelled more than 150 percent from 2000 to 2006. The report says “the number of illegal immigrants in the county definitely increased during these years.”
At the same time, the county saw rising crime, proliferating day labor congregants, overcrowding of single-family homes, public misconduct and increasing complaints by residents.
The county board, led by Chairman Corey Stewart (R), put this policy in place to restore public order and ensure public safety.
Shrill apologists for illegal immigrants used their Saul Alinsky tactics to fight the rational measure. Liberal news media like The Washington Post intoned the (Democrat) party line. But the county’s responsive public servants pressed forward.
The full-throated initiative puts county law enforcement on the job checking arrested suspected illegals’ immigration status. While that might be “controversial” in the rarified air of left-wing salons, it’s common sense, popular and welcome in real America.
In 6 percent of arrests in Prince William County between March 2008 and June 2010, police encountered suspected illegal aliens about 3,000 times. The report says, “Nearly all suspects thought to be illegal immigrants were later confirmed as such.”
About 70 percent of the county’s arrests of illegal aliens entailed drunk driving, public drunkenness or driving without a license.
And some 9,300 suspected illegals in the county jail had their immigration status checked. About 30 percent were illegals. The county gave federal immigration authorities custody of almost 2,500 illegal criminal aliens.
Thanks to this policy, the county’s non-U.S. citizen population fell “substantially,” by 7,400 over two years. U.Va. researchers conclude “that the number of illegal immigrants was significantly reduced.” Some 2,000 to 6,000 illegal aliens left the county between 2006 and 2008.
Those self-deporting out of Prince William County have largely been young, single males. The county’s Hispanic community now consists of more intact families, married couples and somewhat older residents.
Not only has the county rid itself of illegal aliens by consistently identifying illegal criminals and holding them accountable, not only have illegal aliens depopulated Prince William County on their own, but this model Virginia county has seen its violent crime rate fall. The U.Va. report notes that this policy caused “a substantial drop in aggravated assaults.”
This assertive policy is “a reasonable way of targeting illegal immigrants who are serious offenders.”
In addition to the anticrime benefits, Prince William’s immigration-related policy has improved the county’s quality of life. Overcrowded housing mostly disappeared in those parts of the county that had the problems. Researchers report “that particular overcrowded houses became vacant or changed to normal occupancy very soon after the policy was passed.”
The study cites “consistent reports . . . that loitering at day labor sites went down sharply” at first. But that disruption has reactivated.
Immigration-oriented enforcement in the county, plus the mortgage bubble’s bursting at the same time, left many houses vacant. But the “upkeep of vacant properties” has since improved.
Has Prince William’s immigration-enforcement policy set loose rogue cops? Not at all. “We have found no evidence of overzealous or inappropriate immigration enforcement actions by police,” the study says. Nor have the Chicken Little warnings of a “flood of costly racial-profiling litigation . . . materialized.”
The study finds “no changes” in the proportion of Hispanic crime victimization or rates of Latino crime reporting.
An “inescapable” conclusion from Prince William’s policy: “it is indeed possible for a local government to have an impact on its experience with illegal immigration.”
Another new report, using census data, says more than 100,000 fewer Latinos (presumably, mostly illegal aliens) have left Arizona since its S.B. 2010 was debated and enacted.
A couple more inescapable conclusions: Attrition of the illegal alien population can be forced when politicians have a backbone. Consistent enforcement will hold accountable some foreign-born lawbreakers, while many more of them will leave on their own dime. And where there is an enforcement footing, fewer illegal immigrants will come settle there. Sounds like common sense to me!