Local anti-immigrant ordinances dying of disease, decay...

Four months ago, it looked like majority conservative and anti-immigrant city councils across the country were finally finding the solution they needed to immigration- anti-immigrant ordinances that infringe on housing, work and language rights of residents of their towns. The media jumped on the story like a hungry puppy and it was all over the papers- ANTI-IMMIGRANT ordinances spread like wild fire! Just a few hitches: They're costly to litigate, hard to almost impossible to enforce effectively, they bring expensive bureaucratic costs, they cause vital migrant and non-migrant businesses to suffer, they divide communites...... oh, and they're unconstitutional. Ha!

Most cities have foregone their plans to pass these types of ordinances, or they have quietly not enforced them. But leave it to our good old friends to the South, Virginia, to go full steam ahead despite the fact that Hazelton, PA loses their court case, Riverside, NJ rescinds their ordinance, etc. The Prince William County puffed up their chest and said they were gonna put their fist down and keep immigrant kids out of public libraries (and other great measures for public safety and community health just like that....).

Well, it looks like they are finally turning tail:

The board's vote, taken late yesterday afternoon after spirited public debate, delays the implementation of the key elements of the immigration policy.

Specifically, supervisors said it was too soon to commit money for any of the measures. With property values falling by 10 percent or more and a $575,000 cut in state funding for county police services projected, several supervisors urged more time and caution. [see full article below]

[cue music] and another one bites the dust! That's right- where is the national media now?

Citing Cost, Prince William Delays Immigrant Measures Support of Crackdown Affirmed Amid New Caution

By Nick Miroff Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, October 3, 2007; A01

Prince William County supervisors slowed their closely watched crackdown on illegal immigrants yesterday, as one of the nation's most aggressive efforts at local enforcement has run into the reality of budget constraints at a time of declining revenue.

County supervisors remained united in wanting to show that local governments can do more to rid their towns of illegal immigrants, voting unanimously to support a new police policy that increases residency checks and improves cooperation with federal immigration authorities. But when it came to allocating the $14.2 million it would cost to implement the policy, the supervisors balked, voting to revisit the issue later.

The board's vote, taken late yesterday afternoon after spirited public debate, delays the implementation of the key elements of the immigration policy.

Specifically, supervisors said it was too soon to commit money for any of the measures. With property values falling by 10 percent or more and a $575,000 cut in state funding for county police services projected, several supervisors urged more time and caution.

"Part of me feels like we've been pulled away from our central mission," said Supervisor W.S. "Wally" Covington III (R-Brentsville). "For me, what this has always been about is what the cost is."

Supervisors also postponed their vote on proposals that would have denied county services to illegal immigrants, arguing that more time is needed to study the costs and potential consequences. The suggested service cuts outlined at yesterday's meeting did not put a price on tighter residency checks by county staff members. Supervisors also postponed their vote on funding a seven-officer Criminal Alien Unit within the police department.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) pushed hard to get the measures approved and funded, insisting that the board vote on them no later than Oct. 16. Stewart, who is running for reelection and has taken credit for the county's anti-illegal immigration policies, presented the vote as a pressing public safety issue.

"We have broad and deep public support," Stewart said. ". . . Although the cost is not insignificant, it does at least help to bring in and take criminal illegal aliens off the streets."

But the decision to delay a vote on funding was a sign that fissures have begun to appear in the board's determination to make the county inhospitable to illegal immigrants.

Amid much national attention, county supervisors voted unanimously in July on a resolution to cut county services to illegal immigrants and ratchet up police enforcement. Since then, county staff members and others have raised questions about what services could be legally denied. Then came questions about costs. Last month, Police Chief Charlie T. Deane presented the board with an estimate of $14.2 million to implement the police portion of the plan over the next five years.

Under that plan, officers would check the immigration status of anyone who breaks the law if they have probable cause to believe that the person is an illegal immigrant. Police would also improve cooperation with federal immigration authorities to aid deportation proceedings and create the Criminal Alien Unit.

"Immigration isn't the only issue in this county," said the board's vice chairman, Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles). "Paying for all this is going to be difficult."

As in July, yesterday's board meeting brought out raw emotions on both sides of the immigration debate. A large group rallied outside before the meeting in opposition to the policies, then filled the board chambers and the lobby. Several speakers who objected to the measures drew loud applause and were sternly hushed by Stewart, who threatened to clear the room to restore order.

More than three dozen speakers addressed the board, some trembling with emotion as they denounced the policies as racist or explained how illegal immigrants had negatively affected their lives. The organization Mexicans Without Borders, which opposes Prince William's policy, gave the board an oven-size cardboard box containing what they said were 7,000 letters urging the resolution's repeal.

On the other side, the group Help Save Manassas, which claims 1,800 local members and has pushed hard for the crackdown, pressed the supervisors to move forward.

"You must support this resolution, and if you do not, the consequences electorally will be dire, and I can guarantee that," said the group's president, conservative blogger Greg Letiecq.

But when it came to the nuts and bolts of how to pay for and enforce the policy, the supervisors could not agree. For example, they were split over which county services should be denied to illegal immigrants.

Supervisors had given county staff members 90 days to study which services could be lawfully withheld. The staff report is an exhaustive study with a detailed exploration of the legal and practical complications of implementing the measures.

The report recommended cutting off illegal immigrants' access to homeless intervention programs, some senior citizen care and tax relief programs for the elderly and disabled, as well as access to business licenses and other services.

But the report did not back more aggressive restrictions on services such as libraries or access to parks and recreation programs. Many services are unavailable to illegal immigrants, the report said, and others, such as the right to public education, are constitutionally protected.

Illegal immigration was also on the agenda yesterday for the Loudoun County supervisors, who tentatively decided to increase fines for residential overcrowding as part of that county's attempt to target illegal immigrants. They also agreed to require some companies that do business with the county to certify that they follow immigration laws.

But the board postponed a decision about whether nonprofit organizations should do the same. Heads of several nonprofit groups asked the board not to put the burden of enforcement on their shoulders.

"The nonprofits in this county exist to help the government serve the people," said Barbara Notar, head of the Loudoun Literacy Council. "Please show us you appreciate that by supporting our mission rather than burdening us with regulations that will be nearly impossible for us to implement."

Staff writer Sandhya Somashekhar contributed to this report.