- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

Virginia localities are forming a coalition to collectively address problems associated with illegal aliens.

Culpeper County officials, who are leading the initiative, sent out more than 450 invitations to the governments of every county, city and town in the state. So far, the county has received responses from 19 localities that want to participate, Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio said yesterday.

Amherst, Prince William and Spotsylvania counties are the only jurisdictions that have taken official action on the coalition, said Mr. Bossio, who declined to identify the other 16 willing to participate.

The coalition is being formed now that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has rejected requests for Virginia to create a statewide partnership with federal immigration officials that would allow state agencies to identify illegal aliens and begin deportation procedures. The partnership would have included the state police, the state Department of Corrections and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Mr. Kaine does not, however, object to localities entering into agreements with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Several law-enforcement agencies have already entered into formal agreements, including Herndon police, the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center, the Loudoun Adult Detention Center and the sheriff’s departments in Shenandoah and Rockingham counties.

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to join the coalition and demand reimbursement from the state government for costs associated with illegal aliens.

“Going at this regionally strengthens our voice and leverages our authorities,” said Supervisor Henry “Hap” Connors Jr., Chancellor District independent. “It also helps us spread the costs around.”

Supervisors passed a separate resolution declaring English the county’s official language, which the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors also did last month. The Code of Virginia already includes a provision declaring English as the commonwealth’s official language.

Steven E. Nixon, vice chairman of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors, said the coalition’s first step is to gather facts.

“First, we’ll determine what the real impact is, second, what that impact is costing us, third, how we combat the impact and fourth, how we can fix the problems,” said Mr. Nixon, West Fairfax District Republican.

Mr. Bossio said the government leaders of the interested localities will meet early next month to discuss an agenda.

“Then we can say to ourselves, ‘Here are things we see as a problem, here’s the lawmaking capability we have and here are the things we want to ask the General Assembly to do,’ ” he said.

He added that the coalition also wants input from localities that say they aren’t experiencing problems with illegal aliens.

Virginia lawmakers have established a commission to investigate the effects of illegal aliens on the state and help local governments navigate potential legal challenges when establishing enforcement policies.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors next week is scheduled to hear a report from police Chief Charlie T. Deane on how his department plans to step up immigration enforcement. Supervisors in July unanimously passed a resolution that would require police officers to ask about immigration status in all arrests if there is probable cause to believe a suspect has violated federal immigration law.

The resolution also requires county staff to verify a person’s legal status before providing certain public services.

Since then, several other Virginia jurisdictions have passed or considered immigration-related resolutions, including Chesterfield, Culpeper, James City, Loudoun, Page, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the city of Manassas.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, said his powers are not as broad as those of New Jersey’s attorney general, who has ordered state and local police to notify federal immigration officials when an illegal alien is arrested for an indictable offense or drunken driving. The decision was made in part to create a statewide policy on immigration enforcement after a suspect in the Aug. 4 execution-style killings of three Newark, N.J., college students was found to be an illegal alien who was granted bail on child rape and aggravated assault charges.

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