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Arizona Immigration Law Rekindles Prince William Debate

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By Peter Granitz

As elected officials and advocates alike examine the recently-signed immigration bill in Arizona, immigration experts in the Washington region are defending a similar policy in Prince William County, Virginia.

The Arizona bill makes it a crime to be in the state illegally. That’s not the case in Prince William County. But the County’s measure does allow police to check a person's immigration status once they’ve been arrested.

Mike Hethmon is an attorney at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and advised politicians in both Prince William County and Arizona on their immigration bills.

Hethmon says the Supreme Court will likely decide the final outcome of the Arizona bill. And although he says it is constitutional, if it gets overturned, Prince William County can expect the same.

Still, he says Virginia has led the way on immigration reform efforts in the past like imposing a lawful presence test for getting a drivers license.

“Which raised the same kind of hews and cries about profiling the Arizona statute has. In fact the imposition of the lawful presence test in Virginia went so well there wasn’t even a complaint regarding any aspect of civil rights or civil liberties,” says Hethmon.

Hethmon says immigration policy takes years to evolve … because of that mixed with the outcry against the Arizona bill, he does not expect other states to adopt their own versions soon.

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