Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Since when does honoring the law make someone a “nativist”? That’s a question former Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore would be justified in asking these days. He was labeled a nativist by The Washington Post’s editorial board last week for asking Virginia communities not to flout immigration law. Meanwhile, Mr. Kilgore’s opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, apparently thinks violating the law is acceptable if local authorities are doing it and illegal aliens are the beneficiaries.

An immigration theater of the absurd erupted last Monday after Mr. Kilgore criticized the town of Herndon’s proposed “day-laborer” center — which no one disputes would minister to illegal aliens if created — on the grounds that it would contribute to the disregard of state and federal laws. Quite reasonably, Mr. Kilgore told reporters that the Herndon center would “undercut our laws and our stability by rewarding those who … are in this country illegally.”

“I don’t think it is too much to ask that people obey the laws of our society before they take advantage of what our society has to offer,” he explained in a statement on Monday. Encouraging illegals “demeans those who have followed the rules to come to America legally,” he said.

In response, The Post lashed out, accusing Mr. Kilgore of “injecting a nativist note into the campaign;” “immigrant-bashing,” and trying to “excite his conservative base” and said he was seeking wedge issues with which to attack Mr. Kaine.

Surely immigration is a wedge issue: Nationwide, polls show that voters support better border enforcement and want immigration law upheld. Northern Virginians are no different. But since when is honoring the law a “nativist” thing to do? And since when are the two-thirds of Americans who say they want to see immigration law better enforced a “conservative base”? Clearly, on the immigration issue The Post’s editorial board belongs to the elite minority who don’t understand common sense when it comes to U.S. borders.

Herndon’s day-laborer center would aid and abet lawbreaking by spending public money on people who came to the United States illegally. The Post chooses to avoid this fact, instead asking Virginians how they would staff kitchens and construction sites if immigration law were earnestly enforced.

To his great discredit — and his probable disadvantage at the polls — Mr. Kaine supports the center. On Tuesday, at a bilingual meeting at a Falls Church-area high school, he accused Mr. Kilgore of “grandstanding” on the issue and said local officials were simply “trying to solve local problems.” Too bad Mr. Kaine shows such disdain for enforcing the law.

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