Prince William officials blasted federal immigration authorities Tuesday over a move to change the way illegal immigrants are investigated and detained in the county.
After this year, county law enforcement authorities would no longer be able to investigate the immigration status of people they arrest. Instead, they would only be able to check those arrested against a federal immigration database that contains the names of anyone who has come into contact with federal immigration authorities.
As a result of the change, county officials said that their efforts to root out illegal immigrants who commit crimes would be severely undermined.
“We have a duty to protect our citizens and to make our community safe,” said Corey A. Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “If someone commits a crime and they are here illegally, they should be deported.”
The news came in letters last week from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the county sheriff’s office, the jail and police department, and as the Obama administration has instructed federal immigration offices around the country to focus on border security and those who commit serious crimes.