Apparently Prince William County is keeping a watchful eye on the White House and its policy on immigration, since President Obama took office, according to the News and Messenger. What is being specifically watched is whether the 287(g) program will continue to be supported under the department of homeland security. Certain supervisors fear that the program will lose its federal funding and basically cease to exist. And if 287(g) is no longer funded as part of ICE, that leaves PWC without its program.
The article includes a brief explanation of how the county partners with the federal government:
The 287(g) program is how the county jail and police partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to apprehend and process those with criminal backgrounds. Since July 2007, ICE has issued 1,606 detainers for those arrested in the county and 1,506 have been processed, according to county statistics received last week.
The two supervisors who are most tied to the federal program are Chairman Corey Stewart and Gainesville supervisor John Stirrup. Stewart explained the possible ramifications:
“This is what I think is going to happen,” said Corey Stewart, R-at large, chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, looking at the national scene. “I think the administration is going to shift its enforcement focus from illegal immigration to the employer.”
Moreover, he continued, depending on federal budget decisions, the 287(g) program could lose funding. And if that happens, its fate in Prince William is jeopardized.
“If they defund it, it stops our program dead in the water,” Stewart said, rating the chances for such to occur at 50 percent. “It’s just based on the budget and the [actions of] Democrat members of Congress.”
A GAO report and Congressional testimony call for tighter control over the 287(g) program. According to the written testimony of March 14 of Richard Stana, director of Homeland Security and Justice, to the House Committee on Homeland Security:
Specifically … guidance on how and when to use program authority is inconsistent, guidance on how ICE officials are to supervise officers from participating agencies has not been developed, data that participating agencies are to track and report to ICE has not been defined and … taken together, the lack of internal controls makes it difficult for ICE to ensure that the program is operating as intended,”
Stana’s statements were linked to a January GAO report entitled, Immigration Enforcement: Controls over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Should Be Strengthened
John Stirrup also expressed his concerns to the News and Messenger:
“I’m hearing the administration is going to use these [GAO] studies as a basis for defunding or reducing the 287(g) program locally,” said Supervisor John Stirrup, R-Gainesville, who was the original author of the county’s immigration enforcement policy. “We could seek assistance from the state … but it could be problematic.”
Meanwhile, county elected officials will probably have to take the wait and see approach. Many local government people have quietly suggested that the problem with these federal programs is the very thing these 2 supervisors seemed to fear. PWC has put much time, money and reputation into these programs. At any minute, the Feds could pull the plug. Should that happen, everything goes up in smoke. All the training and county resources dry up and there is not plan to deal with criminal illegal immigrants. Manassas City, who also participates in 287 (g) at the jail, was not quoted.
Perhaps this county ought to look at a new motto: Only fund and pay for that over which you have total control.
(Just a thought….)