The top elected official of a Northern Virginia county located less than 40 miles from the nation’s capital says he wants his state to pass a very similar version of the anti-illegal immigration law passed earlier this year in Arizona.

Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, says he will lobby Virginia lawmakers this year in an effort to persuade them to pass a measure that would increase the power of state and local law enforcement to capture, detain and deport illegal immigrants. The plan Stewart is pushing would also outlaw day laborer centers, places where illegals are known to gather.

Stewart, who earned national notoriety in 2007 for instituting a county-wide crackdown on illegals, told Talk Radio News Service that adopting the Arizona bill would drastically decrease Virginia’s crime rate.

“The first two years after the crackdown on illegal immigration in Prince William we had a 37 % drop in the violent crime rate,” he said. “Based upon that experience we believe that we would have similar results in the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In fact, of the 2,000 people arrested last year for major crimes — including violence — in Prince William County, only 121 were found to be living in the state illegally. That figure represents a significant decline from the level recorded before Stewart initiated the crackdown two years ago.

However, on a statewide level, over 17% of those arrested in Virginia last year for violent crime offenses were found to be non-residents: A frightening statistic in Stewart’s view. “We need to bring the rule of law to all of Virginia,” he told the Washington Post in an interview this week.

Though Arizona has faced mounting threats of economic boycotts by cities and businesses in neighboring states, Stewart insists that enacting such a bill in Virginia would have minimal negative impacts on the state’s economy. “Businesses do even better, because when you crack down on illegal immigration, the quality of life improves and the crime rate goes down and that’s the type of environment that businesses want to move to.”

Stewart said he expects to encounter push-back on the effort from federal officials, but added that a lack of federal enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws has created a need for action on the local level. “In their typical political fashion I would expect that the Obama administration will try to intimidate the Commonwealth of Virginia, try to sue the Commonwealth of Virginia. But we have to do what is right precisely because the federal government has refused to do anything about illegal immigration.”
June 18, 2010