- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

Virginia is certainly no stranger to violent crimes committed by illegal aliens. For example, in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Marsha Garst, commonwealth’s attorney in rural Rockingham County and the city of Harrisonburg, described the crime and gang violence perpetrated by illegal aliens in her rural Virginia community. Mrs. Garst, a fifth-generation resident of the area, urged lawmakers to address the illegal-alien gang problem “before our way of life is lost forever.”

She went on to detail the involvement of gangs like the Salvadoran MS-13 and the Surenos 13, a gang comprised of citizens of Mexico, in drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping, robbery and myriad other crimes in the community — often violence and mayhem directed at other immigrants. Local teachers described how both groups are trying to recruit second-graders in their schools, and Mrs. Garst pointed to numerous cases in which local gang members were illegal-alien criminals who had been deported and later re-entered the United States.

In Richmond, Attorney General Robert McDonnell is attempting to do something about the problem of illegals who commit crimes in Virginia — particularly repeat offenders. He is urging Gov. Tim Kaine to reconsider his refusal to permit the State Police, Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Corrections to enter into agreements with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that would allow them to enforce federal immigration laws when they encounter illegals committing other crimes. Currently, Mr. McDonnell says, state and local authorities can only hold illegals for up to 72 hours, and only then if they have been convicted of a felony, deported, and then returned to Virginia. Mr. McDonnell urged that Mr. Kaine permit the state to establish a partnership with ICE so that designated officers could receive training in immigration law enforcement. In addition, two Northern Virginia Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Jay O’Brien and Delegate Thomas Rust, have introduced legislation (S.B. 1045 and H.B. 2926) to give cities and counties similar authority to enforce immigration laws.

No state or local agency would be forced to participate, and the program, currently in effect in five other states, contains myriad safeguards to prevent abuse. It works as follows: The state or local agency signs a memorandum of understanding with ICE that outlines its responsibilities if it encounters someone illegally in the country. After certification, ICE continues to supervise the local agency and provides access to a national database to enable the state or local agency to determine whether someone is illegally here.

Mr. Kaine and some Latino advocacy groups raise myriad, all-too-familiar objections including the threat of “racial profiling” and the possibility that enforcing our immigration law would make immigrant communities reluctant to cooperate with the police. As for the “profiling” objection, it should be pointed out that ICE trains participating agencies in areas such as civil rights and intercultural relations; the notion that legal immigrants would refuse to cooperate with efforts to catch illegal-alien criminals who prey on them is insulting and demeaning. Mr. Kaine should end his obstructionism and cooperate with the attorney general and the legislature in strengthening the state’s ability to put illegal-alien criminals out of business.

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