Prince Wil­liam’s re­quest for data on il­le­gals halted

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | A fed­eral judge has blocked Prince Wil­liam County’s pur­suit of in­for­ma­tion on the more than 4,000 crim­i­nal il­le­gal im­mi­grants the county has turned over to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment since im­ple­ment­ing its con­tro­ver­sial crack­down in 2007.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge James C. Cacheris said that ICE re­sponded ad­e­quately when it pro­vided redacted doc­u­ments on the sub­ject to the county last year, and that the county failed to pro­vide fol­low-up in­for­ma­tion to the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS) to ful­fill an­other re­quest.

Prince Wil­liam Board of County Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Corey A. Ste­wart said the rul­ing ear­lier this month wasn’t un­ex­pected — he said Judge Cacheris thought the county should have ex­hausted its ad­min­is­tra­tive op­tions be­fore tak­ing the case to court — but he blasted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for shut­ting out the county and its res­i­dents from in­for­ma­tion they de­serve to know.

“Why they con­tinue to stonewall Prince Wil­liam County, why they con­tinue to stonewall our law en­force­ment, is in­ex­cus­able,” he said.

County off icials be­gan seek­ing the in­for­ma­tion af­ter a high-pro­file in­ci­dent in Au­gust 2010 in which Car­los A. Martinelly Mon­tano, an il­le­gal im­mi­grant who twice had been con­victed of drunken driv­ing, was charged with killing a Bene­dic­tine nun while again driv­ing drunk. Martinelly Mon­tano was found guilty of felony mur­der in Oc­to­ber and was sen­tenced to 20 years in prison in Fe­bru­ary.

In Novem­ber 2010, the board sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest to ICE for in­for­ma­tion on the il­le­gal im­mi­grants taken into ICE cus­tody since Jan. 1, 2008.

ICE pro­vided a three-page re­sponse Feb. 11, 2011, which in­cluded par­tially redacted spread­sheets for two of the county’s three re­quests: copies of records and re­ports of the in­di­vid­u­als, and copies of their sta­tus or dis­po­si­tion. ICE ex­plained that other files the board had re­quested were held by USCIS, and that the re­quest was be­ing turned over to that agency.

The court said the re­quest re­ferred to USCIS was “ad­min­is­tra­tively de­fec­tive” be­cause the agency had re­quested ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion — writ­ten con­sent and ver­i­fi­ca­tions of iden­tity for the in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing their alien num­ber, name, date of birth and coun­try of birth — that the county never pro­vided.

County of­fi­cials ar­gued that the Con­gres­sional Privacy Act only ap­plies to U.S. cit­i­zens, and ICE should not have redacted the files for the same rea­son — be­cause the re­quest con­cerned il­le­gal im­mi­grants who were not pro­tected un­der privacy laws.

Be­liev­ing they had ex­hausted their ad­min­is­tra­tive reme­dies, county of­fi­cials sued in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the East­ern Dis­trict of Alexan­dria in Au­gust to ob­tain the records that were be­ing with­held.

“We see this as a bump in the road, but it’s cer­tainly not the end of the case,” Mr. Ste­wart said.

Prince Wil­liam County be­came the fo­cus of na­tional at­ten­tion in 2007 when it passed an or­di­nance that ini­tially would have re­quired po­lice to check the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of sus­pected criminals if they had prob­a­ble cause to think they were in the coun­try il­le­gally. It was later mod­i­fied so that im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus would be checked for any­one held in cus­tody.

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