- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

Efforts in Maryland to spend taxpayer money on illegal aliens shows state leaders are more “enlightened” than those in Virginia, Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, said yesterday.

Mr. Leggett, a Democrat, also said Prince William County might save time and effort by offering immigrants services, instead of cracking down on them, and that Montgomery County’s spending on illegals is too small to affect its $4 billion annual budget.

“I think part of it is enlightened leadership,” Mr. Leggett, a Democrat, said on WMAL-AM Radio. “In Maryland, we’ve dealt with this question of diversity much longer with our Hispanic community, in many venues over the past. I think we have a history and a legacy of leadership and accomplishment.”

Mr. Leggett’s comments were made one day after he joined Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, in announcing more assistance for CASA of Maryland and drew sharp criticism from opponents of illegal entry.

“No one has ever accused Ike Leggett of being enlightened,” said Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland. “It was a stunning statement by an ‘enlightened’ man.”

CASA of Maryland, an illegal-alien advocacy group, has renovated the historic McCormick Mansion in Langley Park to provide such services as English classes and employment and computer training for illegal aliens and other Montgomery County residents.

The group, which also runs the county’s day-laborer center, will begin its Construyendo Nuestro Futuro program this weekend, helping illegal aliens sign up for driver’s licenses and register to vote. The campaign — which means building our future — is expected to cost about $30 million over three years and will receive a $1.5 million historic tax credit from Mr. O’Malley.

This summer, Help Save Maryland filed a Freedom of Information request for details on Montgomery County’s funding of CASA. The county has approved more than $2.4 million for CASA for fiscal 2008. However, it was not clear yesterday whether some of the money would go toward the mansion project.

The illegal-alien issue has caused problems across the country, as federal lawmakers struggle to find a solution for dealing with the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegals now in the country.

Montgomery County’s population from 2000 to 2006 increased by 58,790 residents, to 932,131, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county’s Hispanic population increased by 13.6 percent over roughly the same period.

The Hispanic population in Virginia increased by 6 percent over roughly the same period.

Prince William County — whose Hispanic population has nearly doubled to 18 percent over that period — has been at the forefront of the illegal entry debate.

County lawmakers are trying to further restrict services to illegal aliens and to require local police to check the immigration status of all lawbreakers.

“That’s a joke, said Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, said of Mr. Leggett’s comments. “He is going to make Montgomery County the illegal-immigrant sanctuary in the … area. It is not enlightened to allow illegal aliens to commit crimes against citizens, then not deport them. It is not enlightened to divert resources away from citizens and to illegal immigrants. And it is not enlightened to put your head in the sand and ignore the problem.”

A study released in January found county agencies spent more than $3 million last year on public services for illegal aliens.

Mr. Leggett “comes from some sort of 1960s utopian philosophy and he is trying to apply it to a 21st-century problem,” Mr. Stewart continued.

Maryland lawmakers are still trying to enact the REAL ID law, which would force Maryland drivers to prove their national citizenship before obtaining a license.

“Mr. Leggett needs to be enlightened as to what this is doing,” said Delegate Ronald A. George, Anne Arundel Republican, lead sponsor of the REAL ID act. Mr. George said he plans to file the bill again in January.

“I know Montgomery County [residents] would like to have their landscaping done by illegals, and they want someone to do it,” he said. “But they have to be aware of what the excessive number of illegals coming to this state is doing.”

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