Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart is calling on Virginia legislators to follow in Arizona's footsteps and pass a law to crack down on illegal immigration throughout the Commonwealth.
Dubbing it the "Virginia Rule of Law Campaign," Stewart said he will spend the rest of the year lobbying the General Assembly to pass legislation that enhances police officials' power to capture, detain and deport illegal aliens; outlaws illegal day laboring; and creates specific Virginia penalties for illegal immigrants.
"We need to bring the rule of law to all of Virginia," Stewart said. "As long as the federal government shows no interest in securing the border and no interest in internal enforcement to promote self-deportation, then states and localities will have to pick up the slack."
Stewart said he is still working on a final draft of his legislation plan, but he wants it to direct Virginia law enforcement officials to ascertain, in any lawful contact, the legal status of an individual. Another key point for the bill, he said, would be to prohibit jurisdictions from calling themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.
"I'm doing this now as this will be the last General Assembly session before the 2011 elections," Stewart said, noting he is still trying to find legislators to introduce his bill. "My intention is to use the election to pressure the General Assembly into action."
Prince William has received national attention for its crackdown on illegal immigration. The county's law, which was passed in 2007 and modified in 2008, requires that police officers inquire into the immigration status of all people who are arrested on suspicion of violating a state or local law.
"This would go further than what Prince William did in 2007 and follow in the footsteps of what Arizona did," Stewart said. "There is now a state model to follow. The iron is hot. The vast majority of the population support the law, and I'm confident a large majority of Virginians would support similar legislation."
The widely criticized Arizona law, signed in April, allows police wide latitude to check the residency status of anyone who they have "reasonable suspicion" is an illegal immigrant.
Stewart said the county's law was a success -- that illegal immigrants fled and that overall crime dropped to a 15-year low in 2009. The county's 2009 crime report said that of the roughly 2,000 people arrested last year in connection with major crimes, 121 were determined to be illegal immigrants. Of the 12,254 people arrested for other offenses, including drunken driving, prostitution and fraud, 774 lacked legal status. A more comprehensive illegal immigration report on the county's efforts is due out this year.
Stewart has created a Facebook page called The Virginia Rule of Law Campaign, which now has more than 60 supporters. He has also started an online petition for supporters to sign.
"I'm doing this as a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a
father and a husband," he said. "I look forward to working with a lot of
leaders from around Virginia ... to get this done."
By Jennifer Buske | June 17, 2010; 5:09 PM ET