quote:Prince William County is moving to enact what legal specialists say are some of the toughest measures in the nation targeting illegal immigrants, including a provision that would direct police to check the residency status of anyone detained for breaking the law -- whether shoplifting, speeding or riding a bicycle without a helmet.
The measures would also compel county schools and agencies -- including libraries, medical clinics, swimming pools and summer camps -- to verify the immigration status of anyone who wants to use services in Virginia's second-largest county. Courts have upheld the right of undocumented immigrants to a public education, raising the possibility of a legal challenge.
There are serious constitutional issues with this. For one, a police officer has the right to stop someone only on reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. The stop may only extend long enough to investigate that suspicion to see if it ripens into probable cause. Prolonging the stop to check citizenship/residency without reasonable suspicion of a related crime is unconstitutional. The resolution states that the check won't extend the length of the stop, but it's hard to see how it wouldn't unless PW county is putting in one heck of a database system.
I'm also worried about speaking a language other than English becoming reasonable suspicion. Besides the fact that many people who speak something other than English are citizens or legal residents, not all people who are in the country "illegally" are committing a crime.
A couple other things really bother me:
quote:In drafting the resolution, Stirrup worked with the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute, the law firm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tougher immigration laws. Stirrup said he did not consult with county Police Chief Charlie T. Deane, who, in an earlier letter to the supervisors about a similar measure, warned of "a potential chilling effect on witness cooperation and victim-witness cooperation."
Procedural issue: They created a major new law enforcement requirement and they didn't consult the police chief? Substantive issue: When all officers are seen as the enemy by a group, it becomes very hard to police a community. Granted, it is hard now. But there is some amount of trust between some police and some elements of the immigrant community. This will destroy that trust unless the police openly refuse to comply (something I'm not comfortable with at all, even though I don't like the resolution). If the supervisors are correct that the presence of illegal immigrants leads to crime, they're not helping matters.
In general, we don't live in a country where people have to prove their right to exist. "Show me your papers" is a stereotype of totalitarian regimes for a reason.
Finally there's what should be called the "busy-body nosy neighbor clause":
quote:But there is one exceptional item in the resolution, Kobach said -- a provision that would give legal residents "writ of mandamus" powers, which would allow them to sue Prince William if they suspect that a county agency has failed to comply with the resolution's aim of denying services and reporting violators. Muzaffar Chishti, director of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute's office at the New York University law school, said that particular measure is "as close to encouraging vigilante action as I have ever seen on paper."
That's all we need: a medical clinic spending its resources on defending itself from the Minutemen (who have an active, highly harassing chapter up here in NoVa).
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