Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore said yesterday if elected he will go after businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens.

“They are supposed to check for legal status,” Mr. Kilgore told The Washington Times. “If they are knowingly violating the law they shouldn’t be getting state contracts and they should not be getting state credits and benefits.”

His comments come one day after he debated his Democratic challenger Timothy M. Kaine over a host of topics, including the establishment of a day laborer center in Herndon that will provide services for legal immigrants and illegal aliens.

The debate was sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, whose members include local business leaders. Last night, a chamber spokesman had no comment on Mr. Kilgore’s proposal, saying it would be up to individual businesses to weigh in.

Mr. Kilgore has said officials in Northern Virginia are giving incentives to illegals by allowing such centers. One way to address the problem would be to revoke any tax credits or benefits companies receive from the state if they knowingly hire illegal aliens, he said.

Mr. Kaine said at the debate that his opponent was “mean-spirited” and that the members of the Herndon Town Council should have the right to deal with “tough public safety challenges.”

“They are elected by local people and I’m not going to grandstand over their right to make the best decision for themselves, using their own money,” Mr. Kaine said Tuesday. “The problem is a federal government that turns its back, that lets employers violate the law and then expects local governments to try to pick up the pieces.

“Jerry, there is a mean-spiritedness in your attack,” he added.

Yesterday, Mr. Kilgore responded to Mr. Kaine’s remarks: “I don’t know how it is mean-spirited to ask someone to follow the law.”

Mr. Kilgore also said if elected he would sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to train 50 state troopers and give them special authority to detain illegal aliens.

The executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said Mr. Kilgore’s stance is not realistic.

“We believe you need to be here legally, but in the real world we don’t have the resources to address that,” said Dana Schrad, executive director of the association that represents police chiefs in the state.

“If you take a position we’re going to launch enforcement activities to rid Virginia of all illegal immigrants, it backfires on law enforcement because we don’t have the resources to do that,” she said.

She said that authorities worry about detaining gang members and violent criminals before they worry about detaining illegal aliens who violated immigration law.

Miss Schrad also said day laborer centers are a better alternative to large groups of men standing around and potentially causing trouble for local businesses, which is one of the reasons Herndon leaders gave when they approved the center.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said Mr. Kaine is correct in stating that the federal government is failing to do its job and agreed that Herndon shouldn’t be second-guessed on its decision to allow the center.

“These are local issues and we shouldn’t be in the position to bully people,” he said. “We shouldn’t be in the business of coming in and intervening in local issues.”

Mr. Bergman also said that Democrats agree with Mr. Kilgore that illegal behavior should not be rewarded with state contracts.

Conservative lawmakers supporting Mr. Kilgore yesterday criticized Mr. Kaine for the comments he made at the debate.

Delegates David B. Albo and L. Scott Lingamfelter, both Republicans, said Mr. Kaine’s comments put him out of touch with Virginia voters and equate to encouraging illegal activity.

“He is turning a blind eye toward the problem,” said Mr. Lingamfelter of Prince William County. “Tim is completely out of step with the voting public on this issue.”

However, statewide polls show that concern over illegal aliens ranks low in voting priorities.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, has previously criticized Mr. Kilgore’s position on the day laborer center as “bigoted.”

Mr. Kilgore and the two lawmakers said that illegal aliens is an issue that is “constantly” brought up by voters.

Mr. Lingamfelter and Mr. Albo said they agree with Mr. Kaine that the federal government must take action on illegal aliens. The lawmakers also agree with Mr. Kilgore that all benefits should be yanked from companies that hire illegal workers.

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