- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Support among legislators grew yesterday for declaring an emergency in Virginia to stem problems with illegal aliens, while the three gubernatorial candidates said they don’t think the state has reached an immigration crisis.

Several lawmakers and political hopefuls said Gov. Mark Warner must declare a state of emergency — like the governors of Arizona and New Mexico did last week — to win more federal funds and manpower in the fight to stem the flow of illegal aliens into the state. They also urged the candidates in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election to take action.

Delegate Timothy D. Hugo said he thinks Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick’s letter asking Mr. Warner to declare a state of emergency will have “wide support” in the House Republican Caucus.

“I hope Governor Warner steps up to the plate and does the right thing on this,” the Fairfax County Republican said. “Obviously it’s a national problem, but each state has to step up to the plate. We each have to do our own part.”

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, is reviewing the letter, but staff members say the governor is unlikely to declare a state of emergency.

But Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. all said yesterday they are not inclined to use an emergency declaration to deal with the problem.

Mr. Kilgore, who has said the state should deny public benefits to illegal aliens in all cases, took the harshest stance of the three.

“It has the potential to reach that point but it’s not there yet,” said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “He’s doing what he can right now in identifying it as a problem.”

Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said the lieutenant governor thinks the federal government must respond to the influx of illegal aliens, and said lawmakers must not overburden state and local police with enforcing immigration law.

“He would take very similar approach to Governor Warner and would certainly review the request, however, Virginia is facing is a different set of challenges than what Arizona and New Mexico face,” she said.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, dismissed the idea as “bogus” and an attempt to use a wedge issue to distract voters from transportation, education and health care.

“There is no crisis in Virginia. There’s a world of difference between the problems of Arizona and California and New Mexico and I totally reject that,” Mr. Potts said. “It’s gone from God, guns and gays to God, guns, gays and illegal immigrants.”

State Sen. James “Jay” O’Brien urged Mr. Kilgore to say that declaring a state of emergency would be a top priority for his administration were he to win the governor’s mansion.

“What happens at the border does affect all 50 states, and ultimately it is a state problem,” said Mr. O’Brien, Fairfax County Republican.

He said the Herndon Town Council’s 5-2 decision approving a formal site for day laborers sends the wrong message. “We are saying ‘no’ with our right hand at the borders, and provide day laborers benefits with our left hand at the state level,” he said.

Mr. Kilgore yesterday spoke to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Chantilly and repeated his campaign mantra that he has no problems with legal immigration, but said taxpayer funds must not be used to assist illegal aliens.

Delegate Kristen J. Amundson, Fairfax County Democrat, said Virginia is “just not there” at the level of Arizona’s problem.

“There is just a different order of magnitude in Arizona,” she said. “This governor has shown a great willingness to tackle any number of difficult issues and he would do this if it were at the level it is in other states.”

Delegate Mark L. Cole, Fredericksburg Republican, said Mr. Warner should do anything he can to address the problem with illegal aliens, but noted the problem does not equal what is happening in Arizona and New Mexico.

“The federal government has been falling down on the job for many years now,” he said.

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