According to the Washington Post,
Prince William, a Year Later
A crackdown’s toxic effects
ONE YEAR after Prince William County launched its drive to hound, harass and humiliate illegal immigrants, the toxic effects of the policy — on the county’s reputation, social cohesion, political discourse and neighbors — are increasingly clear.
Across the nation, Prince William has become synonymous with an ugly strain of nativist intolerance that has deep roots in American history but which is a slander on the county’s generally well-educated and diverse population. In this region, almost every other major jurisdiction has spurned Prince William’s approach.
Minorities account for almost half of Prince William’s 370,000 people, and a large slice of that population — around 20 percent — is Hispanic. Most of them are legal residents, but many also have ties of kinship, friendship or employment with others who are undocumented. Many say they have been made to feel unwelcome in Prince William. This year, several dozen religious leaders in the county wrote to local elected officials, warning them of the divisive consequences of the county’s venomous campaign.
Predictably, they got the brushoff from Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, who has done more than anyone else to plant seeds of discord and hatred in the county. Mr. Stewart is an avid opportunist and manipulator who has an arm’s-length relationship with public candor. Not long ago, he said that a plan to install cameras in police cars — a precondition for his preferred policy of allowing officers to ask suspects about their immigration status almost at will before arrest — would be dropped “over my dead body”; then he dropped it. Lately, he has tried to link a decline in crime to the harsh policies he has advocated. Trouble is, much of the drop is attributable to a fall in robberies that predates the crackdown on illegal immigrants and that probably stemmed from an aggressive anti-robbery campaign by the police.
So what has the county achieved with its effort to intimidate undocumented newcomers by ordering checks on the immigration status of all detainees after arrest and by denying certain social services to illegal immigrants? Without doubt, it has prompted hundreds of Hispanics — legal and illegal — to depart the county. Many of them have moved to surrounding jurisdictions, where they are enrolling in public schools and turning to local government services or nonprofits for help. To Mr. Stewart and his allies, this beggar-thy-neighbor policy is a success. In fact, it has simply branded Prince William as the one locality in the Washington area where demagoguery by elected officials has gotten the better of coolheaded public deliberation.