The Department of Homeland Security says it's about money, but Prince William County officials say it's politics. The feds informed the county they plan to cancel a controversial program that led to the deportation of thousands of criminal illegal immigrants.
Prince William County got rid of thousands of illegal immigrants in the past few years. Now the feds may stop cooperating. County officials believe it's an effort to win more Latino votes for President Obama in a crucial swing state.
Anger over illegal immigrants and crime spiked in Prince William County in 2010. A man with numerous DUI convictions, who was released while awaiting deportation, got drunk and slammed into a car, killing Denise Mosier, a Catholic nun.
The crackdown on illegals sparked outrage when it began in 2008. County officials say it proved very successful and is widely supported.
"We have identified and apprehended more than 5,500 criminal illegal aliens we have handed over to ICE for deportation," says Corey Steward, (R) Prince William County Board Chairman.
Under an agreement with ICE, the county could determine on its own whether an immigrant suspected of a crime is illegal. Now the feds have informed officials they are reevaluating the agreement and will likely cancel it at the end of the year. Only immigrants already deemed illegal in ICE's database can be handed over.
"I think it is good for the Latino people," says Samuel Berum of Woodbridge.
"I think it is good for the Hispanic people because in 2009 too many people were deported to their countries," says Ulises Costilla, also of Woodbridge.
Prince William County officials see it as pandering to the Latino vote in a crucial state in the upcoming election.
"The Obama administration is apparently playing politics with public safety," says Berum. "This is a public safety measure that has reduced our violent crime rate."
Whether politically motivated or not, some Latinos think President Obama is softer on illegal immigration than his opponent.
"I think Romney is going to deport all of us," says Costilla.
The feds state the termination of the agreement with the county stems from budget cuts.