Posted on February 26, 2009

Pr. William Was Unprepared for Shifting Demographics

Gillian Gaynair, AP, February 26, 2009

Anti-illegal immigration policies in Prince William County were in part fueled by changing demographics and an unprepared government, a study released Wednesday found.

Researchers at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, spent a year examining population, social, political and economic trends that preceded the passing of a 2007 county resolution, which in part authorizes police to enforce federal immigration law. Immigrant rights groups have said that the policy, which drew national attention, has created strife between Hispanic immigrants and police and spurred an exodus of Hispanics.

With that, and considering the nation’s economic downturn, the study called on Prince William leaders to revisit their policy as they look to the future. It said that the county’s ability to weather the financial crisis will depend on its success in attracting new homeowners and retaining businesses.


One of the country’s fastest-growing counties for Hispanic growth, Prince William’s overall population more than doubled between 1980 and 2006, and its immigrant population exploded to more than 14 times its size in 1980, the Brookings study said. Jobs and housing lured immigrants and native-born newcomers to the Virginia county.

The study found that as many Hispanics and other minorities settled in older neighborhoods, some longtime Prince William residents felt the nature of their community change. {snip}

Complaints to the government soared and it was initially not staffed to handle them, the study said, nor prepared to communicate “with new residents who were often the target of such complaints.”


The county became one of a few in the Washington region that has cracked down on illegal immigration in recent years. In Virginia’s Loudoun County and Maryland’s Frederick County, law enforcement authorities also are trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.


Stewart [Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors] said officials don’t intend to re-evaluate the county policy.

“Through a lot of painful discussion, we have come up with a policy that the vast majority of the community is happy with and is effective,” he said.