ACLU of Virginia Urges County Officials to Reject Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
July 9, 2007 12:00 am

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Proposed Ordinance Would Lead to Discrimination, Denial of Legally Required Services, ACLU Says

RICHMOND, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union 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.

“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.”

The proposed measure requires police officers to inquire about the immigration status of any person they detain; allows 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 legal action against the county government to compel compliance with its obligations under the ordinance.

In a letter faxed this afternoon to Prince William officials, Willis and ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg said that county officials may intend to use the ordinance to prevent undocumented persons from accessing benefits, such as public education and emergency medical care, to which they are entitled under federal law.

“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,” wrote Willis and Glenberg. “Any attempt by the County to deny such services would be unlawful and would be an invitation to litigation.”

The ACLU also questions the right of county officials to create a new legal action allowing residents 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,” Willis said. “So unusual, in fact, that one wonders if its real purpose is simply to give county residents a formal means of harassing immigrants.”

The ACLU of Virginia’s letter to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors is online at

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