Civil liberties organization fears ordinance will lead to denial of legally required services and discrimination based on national origin

Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia today asked members of the Prince William Board of Supervisors not to approve a proposed anti-immigrant ordinance that could lead to increased discrimination based on national origin and to the denial of essential, legally required services to undocumented immigrants. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the controversial ordinance at its meeting tomorrow afternoon.
The proposed measure requires police officers to inquire about the immigration status of any person they detain, permits county personnel to check a person's immigration status to determine eligibility for federal, state, or local benefits, and gives county residents the right to a legal action against the county government to compel compliance with its obligations under the ordinance.
“There is nothing subtle about the purposes of this ordinance,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “It is a large not-welcome mat being laid down before Prince William’s immigrant community and it will surely lead to discriminatory treatment of minorities, whether documented or undocumented.”
In a letter faxed this afternoon to Prince William officials, Willis and ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg say that County officials may intend to use the ordinance to prevent undocumented from accessing benefits, such as public education and emergency medical care, to which they are entitled under federal law. Willis and Glenberg write:
“While it is not clear that the resolution actually requires the denial of services to undocumented immigrants, it does appear that at least some members of the Board of Supervisors construe it to do so. Any attempt by the County to deny such services would be unlawful and would be an invitation to litigation.”
Willis and Glenberg also question the right of the County to create a new legal action allowing citizens to sue local government agencies for not enforcing the ordinance. Under Virginia’s “Dillon Rule,” the County may not have the authority to pass such an ordinance.
“This is a highly unusual way for the government to monitor itself,” added Willis. “So unusual, in fact, that one wonders if its real purpose is simply to give County residents a formal means of harassing immigrants.”
A copy of the letter is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20070709-Pr-William-Immigration-Ord.pdf

Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, 804/644-8022