Va. County: Tough Laws Repelling Illegals

Arlo Wagner, Washington Times, March 12, 2008

Months after Prince William County began one of the country’s strongest crackdowns on illegal immigrants, some officials and residents say illegals and other residents appear to be leaving.

Dave Whitlow, town manager of Dumfries, said officials started noticing the change a few months ago when they canvassed communities popular among Hispanic families and found roughly 165 residences vacant among 1,600 houses and townhouses.

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In July, the Board of County Supervisors unanimously agreed to have the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency train six police officers and one resident for an Alien Crime Unit.

The detail began enforcement March 1 and is assisting officers, who have a suspect in a crime—including traffic offenses—and find probable cause that he or she is in the country illegally. Before then, officers were not authorized to make arrests for illegal immigration.

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Jason D. Grant, spokesman for the Prince William’s Department of Economic Development, said the county has not seen signs of an economic downtown as a result of the crackdown, but officials, merchants and residents say changes are obvious.

Officials in Dumfries—a town of roughly 5,000 residents on the southern tip of Prince William—also said about 10 percent of housing units are for sale or in foreclosure.

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County police Chief Charlie T. Deane said Prince Williams was “at the forefront in this nation of enforcement . . . of immigration issues.”

He also said the department continues to receive complaints about the behavior of illegal immigrants and others who hang around day-labor sites waiting for work.

However, a day-laborer outside a 7-Eleven store in Woodbridge said Tuesday that fewer workers have been coming to sites since the resolution was passed.

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Mr. Castro said sales have decreased mostly in such non-essential goods as tools, hardware and kitchenware. However, he said sales of milk and other foods have remained about the same.

Mexicans Without Borders, among the groups that protested the resolution, agreed today that residents are leaving.

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