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Arlington Opts Out Of Illegal Immigration Policy

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Before Arlington Board members voted to opt out, all 129 of Virginia's law enforcement jurisdictions were participating in ICE's Secure Communities program.
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Before Arlington Board members voted to opt out, all 129 of Virginia's law enforcement jurisdictions were participating in ICE's Secure Communities program.

By Jonathan Wilson

In Virginia, Arlington County leaders voted this week to opt out of a cooperative initiative with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Leaders from surrounding counties disagree on whether Arlington's decision will have an impact on the entire area.

Prince William County Board Chair Corey Stewart, a Republican, says Arlington's decision to opt out of ICE's Secure Communities program has put it on what he calls the "fringe left" of the immigration enforcement issue.

"I think Arlington County is going to find itself alone in refusing to cooperate with the federal government to deport criminal illegal aliens," says Stewart.

For now, Arlington is alone.

It's the first jurisdiction in the entire state to say 'no' to Secure Communities, which allows ICE agents to step in when local law enforcement identifies illegal immigrants committing other crimes.

In neighboring Fairfax County, board chair Sharon Bulova, a Democrat, says Arlington's vote won't affect the friendly relationship between the two counties, even if Fairfax considers Secure Communities a success so far.

"We do what works for our own jurisdiction," says Bulova, "and I don't think that that complicates things."

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli isn't as comfortable with the decision.

In a statement released by his office, he called it "unfortunate," especially since Secure Communities has "strong bipartisan support, including from the Obama Administration, which has said it wants the program operating nationwide by 2013."

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