WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to have the county attorney submit the Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security, demanding information on the whereabouts of thousands of immigrants who local police arrested and handed over to federal officials for deportation.
The vote was 5 to 1. Two supervisors weren’t at the meeting.
The move was expected. On Sunday, board chairman Corey Stewart said that “We’ve been asking for this information since 2010. They’ve continued to stonewall us. Some of these individuals are very dangerous and we’re concerned that they’re releasing them right back into our community.”
The county has had a policy in place since 2007/2008 that identifies immigrants who entered the country illegally and are committing crimes in the county. Police turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
In 2011, the county sued for the information about the status of those people. But a judge said the county had not done its due diligence in trying to get the data by exhausting all administrative options.
The county’s efforts have been dismissed by organizations that represent the county’s immigrant populations as merely an effort to boost Stewart’s political credentials.
“This latest proposal by Corey Stewart is an attempt to try and resurrect his dead-end political career. He used the back of the immigrant community in 2007 to make a name for himself. However, since then, even his own party has not supported his advancement in politics,” said Nancy Lyall, with the Woodbridge Workers Committee, a non-profit that has worked with immigrants living in Prince William County for the last nine years.
“Many of us who work in the immigrant community decline to acknowledge his actions as worthy of comment,” she said Sunday.
Stewart said Sunday that the county’s request will probably go nowhere, and that the county will likely have to sue the Department of Homeland Security a second time to access the information.
While language regarding a possible lawsuit was removed from Tuesday’s motion, the board has left open the possibility of suing the federal government.
“We know that significant portions of the criminal illegal aliens that we’ve handed over to ICE have been released back into our community. Because we’ve re- apprehended 10 percent of them for additional crimes after we have handed them over to ICE for deportation,” Stewart said.
Stewart says the cost of suing will be worth it in order to protect the public from criminals.
“We’re talking about people who’ve assaulted people, taken indecent liberties with children and who have committed violent crimes.”
Stewart says the county’s crime rate decreased after the policy was initially put in place, but that the rate is beginning to creep back up, in part because those men and women are returning to the county instead of being deported.
The Prince William County Police Department reports that violent crimes, including murder and robbery, increased in 2013 compared to 2012, although the county’s overall crime rate dropped last year, hitting a 15-year low.