With the nation watching, the impact of Prince William County, Va.,’ illegal immigration crackdown will be measured by an independent team of college professors and criminologists, the Washington Post reports. At the heart of their evaluation will be this question: How does a community change when its police officers start checking citizenship? The team of experts from the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and the Police Executive Research Forum will spend the next two years examining the consequences of the policy, which requires officers to check the immigration status of crime suspects they think are in the U.S. illegally. The policy started March 3.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF called it “uncharted territory. And, as such, I think we have an obligation to tell it as we see it.” The team will analyze everything from police records to public sentiment. If large numbers of illegal immigrants leave the county, were they driven out by police actions, out of fear, or because there are fewer jobs in a flagging economy? If reported crime goes down, does it mean that fewer people are breaking the law or that more people are afraid to call authorities? “Our interviews so far already show that different people in the county are expecting very different things from this policy,” said Thomas Guterbock, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. “We don’t know what will happen, but we know that all of these things can’t happen.”