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Around the States: Rhode Island, Virginia Crackdowns; NYC Losing to Competition


State and local authorities in several locations continued efforts to crack down on undocumented immigration. In Rhode Island, Governor Don Carcieri, under pressure because of a massive budget deficit, signed an executive order directing state police to enter into an agreement with federal immigration authorities to permit access by the police to immigration databases. Such access would give them the ability to check the immigration status of criminals, victims, witnesses, and those supplying the police with confidential tips, according to state police Major Steven O’Donnell. The prison system is expected to negotiate a similar agreement. The executive order also requires businesses and state agencies to verify the status of employees.

As of March 3, 2008, Prince William County in Virginia requires police officers to inquire about immigration status during arrests or traffic stops whenever there is probable cause to suspect that an immigration violation has occurred. The Board of County Supervisors resolution also requires verification of immigration status by county staff before certain public services can be provided.

A team of sociologists and law enforcement experts from the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and the Police Executive Research Forum is expected to conduct a two-year study to examine the consequences of the Prince William policy. Meanwhile, Latinos reportedly already have been fleeing the county for months because of a combination of factors, including the immigration crackdown, a downturn in the construction industry, and the mortgage crisis. Latino-run businesses are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and churches and soccer leagues are losing members. Entire strip malls have been “transformed into ghost towns,” according to the Washington Post.

Legal immigrants are also feeling the pinch. Santos Perdomo, a Prince William legal resident and business owner who also owns two houses, noted that many Hispanics are leaving. He plans to stay, although he noted that he no longer wants to give to the county police fund. “Even though I am legal, I feel rejected. This law has ruined all the good feelings. When I came here 12 years ago, my neighbors sent me pies. Now they look at me differently.”

The crackdown is expected to cost the county millions of dollars in enforcement costs and to affect tax revenues. The county has proposed a 28 percent property tax increase to make up for budget shortfalls. Similar efforts in Riverside, New Jersey, led to “chang[ing] the face of Riverside,” according to former mayor Charles Hilton, who noted that “[t]he business district is [now] fairly vacant.”

Along with a reduction in undocumented residents, it is clear that the policy in Prince William, and others like it nationwide, will have a substantial impact on legal residents and on the local economy over the next few years.

In other news, senior executives of large corporations, small and midsize companies, and investment banks have expressed concerns that harsh immigration policies are threatening New York City’s ability to compete with foreign cities because the people chosen to take high-paying jobs cannot gain admission to the U.S. Some officials reportedly said that they have shifted dozens of jobs to other financial capitals because of the difficulty in obtaining visas for foreign workers.

Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said, “New York’s ability to compete with London, which has much more open immigration, or with the emerging financial capitals in Asia and the Middle East, depends on mobility of talent, both in terms of new and current employees. What people miss is, New York’s standing as an international capital of business and finance depends on the professionals within these companies being able to come to New York to be trained and groomed for leadership positions around the world.” She noted that opposing business immigration is “a 20th-century, pre-globalization mentality that thinks somehow American companies and jobs can grow if we cut ourselves off from foreign talent.” A senior project manager for British bank Barclays said he took a job in London over one in New York City mainly because of the uncertainty of H-1B renewals and the “whole visa situation,” which he termed a “nightmare.”

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Ivener & Fullmer LLP, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.

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