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Immigration News

Va. Immigrant Population Reduced by Arizona-like Policy

A study of Prince William County, Va.’s Arizona-style immigration policy has revealed that the policy lowered the number of illegal immigrants in the county, but failed to bring any conclusive evidence on the effect on violent crime.

A documentary called “9500 Liberty” from filmmaker Eric Bayer, captured Prince William County’s struggle with the law’s effect through March and April of 2008.

Conducted by the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit group focused on the improvement of police tactics, the study looked at data from 2007 (when Virginia’s policy was proposed) to 2009.

The county began enforcing their law, very much like Arizona’s, in 2008. The law requires that police officers check the resident status of anyone they have probable cause to believe is in the country illegally.

The Prince William County police department paid for the study after they grew concerned that the law would cost the county more money than available and because the department worried is would lead to accusations of racial profiling.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the county’s immigrant population more than doubled in the last ten years, but the report found that from 2006 to the 2009, there were 3,000 to 6,000 fewer undocumented immigrants in the county.

One of the authors of the study said he is convinced the drop is “a clear result of the policy.”

In an interview last week, county executive, Corey Stewart said, “believe that if someone is here illegally, they should be deported, but from a more practical perspective, we should be focusing on those illegal immigrants who are committing crimes.”

With just 6 percent of the county’s crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, the effects of the law on crime has been difficult, because the drop could have been a result of a decrease of frightened immigrants reporting crimes.

Another of the study’s authors said, “We have no indication that the enforcement of the policy led to a reduction in crime.” Adding, “Crime trends have been steady.”

Byler agrees, and said that the policy was only in place for two months and that was hardly long enough to determine the long term effects.

He added that, “If anything, this is the measure of the controversy’s impact, not a measure of the policy’s impact.”