Friday, August 24, 2007

Virginia‘s only Hispanic state lawmaker is crafting legislation that would cut off state funding to any locality providing sanctuary to illegal aliens.

“Providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants in essence encourages illegal immigration, and makes Virginia a destination for illegals,” said Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William County Republican.

The aim is to stop Virginia counties, cities and towns with policies that ignore a person’s immigration status while providing public benefits and services. Several localities in Northern Virginia are enacting or exploring ordinances aimed at curbing the population of illegal aliens.

“Illegal immigration is costing taxpayers a fortune, and it is harming the quality of life of our citizens,” Mr. Frederick said. “It’s time we require our local governments to obey the law.”

Mr. Frederick will introduce his proposal when the General Assembly convenes in January. Republican lawmakers said yesterday that the likelihood of approval depends of the specifics of the bill.

Prince William County has been at the forefront of efforts to enforce immigration laws. Last month, the Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously to require police officers to ask about the immigration status of those they arrest if there is probable cause to think federal immigration laws were violated. The board also voted to require the county to verify legal status before providing certain public services.

Loudoun, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Stafford, Chesterfield and James City counties also have either explored or enacted ordinances aimed at curbing illegals.

Mr. Frederick said his legislation would require every local government to take actions similar to those in Prince William or jeopardize state funding.

Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, called Mr. Frederick’s plan a “great idea.”

Mr. Albo said some local governments, including Fairfax County, have ignored legislation he ushered through the General Assembly in 2005 to prevent illegal aliens from receiving any non-emergency public benefits.

Fairfax County officials say the law goes too far by denying access to subsidized health care, free clinics and homeless shelters for adult aliens.

“As Prince William, Loudoun, Spotsylvania and Stafford crack down on illegal immigrants, very clearly they are going to go to find a sanctuary for illegal immigrants and Fairfax County sticks out like a sore thumb,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “We have been having this problem with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors refusing to get on board with what we are doing.”

J. Walter Tejada, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board, said Mr. Frederick’s proposal amounts to politics.

“We need to be about ensuring safety in our community and making sure health issues are addressed,” said Mr. Tejada, a Democrat. “We will continue to be a jurisdiction that is welcoming to immigrants and will continue to comply with the law.”

Mr. Albo and Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican, said Mr. Frederick faces a challenge with his definition of “sanctuary” and how he addresses such things as the Supreme Court’s ruling making every child eligible for a free education.

“I really don’t want Virginia localities to act as inviters of illegals, but I want to be careful not to go berserk on it,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “If you are not running a check on everyone you pull over, does that mean you are a sanctuary? We need to stay rational and move with forethought.”

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, said he is reluctant to support the plan without learning the details, but that he is pushing for proposals to reduce crime related to illegal aliens and the drain on state taxpayers.

“I am certainly open to other things that will deal with this problem in the absence of federal action,” he said.

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