About 2 percent of the people charged with major violent crimes last year in Prince William County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., were illegal immigrants, but they were arrested for a larger portion of secondary offenses, says a Washington Post analysis that offers the first comprehensive look at criminal activity since the county implemented controversial anti-illegal immigration measures. The county requires police officers to check the immigration status of everyone taken into custody for an alleged crime, and officers can look into someone’s status before making an arrest.
Opponents say the data show that the rhetoric about the safety threat posed by illegal immigrants was overblown. The county’s crime rate rose last year for the first time since 2004. That increase was driven largely by a surge in property crime. The number of major violent crimes plummeted almost 22 percent from the year before — more proof, advocates say, that the immigration policy has worked. “There were a series of very serious crimes, high-profile crimes committed by illegal aliens” before the policy, said Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart. “Frankly, illegal immigrants have done one of two things: They have either left the county, or they simply are being very careful not to commit any crimes and end up in jail.”