September 18, 2007

Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia today warned the Prince William Board of Supervisors about the dangers of enforcing an anti-immigrant resolution passed on July 10, specifically criticizing a new proposal from the Police Chief for conducting inquiries into the residency status of arrestees.
The Police Chief’s proposal -- which responds to the July 10 resolution’s mandate that police conduct inquiries into the residency status of detainees when there is probable cause to believe the detainee is in violation of federal immigration law -- will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting today.
In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg objects in particular to two aspects of the Police Chief’s proposal. First, the Police Department proposes to use Department of Motor Vehicles standards to determine “proof of legal presence” of persons who have been arrested on criminal charges. This implies that everyone, including U.S. citizens, must carry proof of residency or be subject to official inquiries into their immigration status.
Second, the ACLU is concerned that the proposed policy allows the police to extend the time arrestees may be detained in order to conduct an investigation into their residency status. The ACLU believes that, because local police lack the authority to arrest individuals for immigration matters, it is a violation of their constitutional rights to extend the time of detention in order to conduct inquiries into immigration status.
The Police Chief’s proposal includes some safeguards to reduce discriminatory application of the resolution, but at a cost of $14,000,000 to Prince William County taxpayers. The ACLU believes that, even with the safeguards, individual police officers are far more likely to check the immigration status of Latinos who have been arrested than others.
“This Police Chief’s proposal underscores the problem of local enforcement of federal immigration law,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Are Prince William County’s taxpayers willing to pay $14,000,000 to implement a program that requires everyone to carry proof of residency papers at all times, that will likely be enforced on the basis of national origin, and that will, in the end, identify a handful of persons who are here illegally?”
A copy of Glenberg’s letter may be found at

Contacts Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, 804/644-8022