Tuesday, January 23, 2007

RICHMOND — Taxpayer money could not be given to groups that provide assistance to illegal aliens if legislation endorsed yesterday by a House committee becomes law.

Delegate Jackson H. Miller’s bill, passed by a House health committee on a 13-8 vote, would forbid religious, charitable or community groups from using state or local government money to intentionally serve illegal aliens by providing food, shelter, education or other social services.

“It’s to make sure that taxpayers’ money is not used to benefit illegal immigrants in our communities, it’s as simple as that,” said Mr. Miller, Manassas Republican.

Mr. Miller said he was upset that taxpayer money was used in 2005 to fund a site in Herndon for day laborers to gather to wait for work.

“It was basically built for people who are here working illegally, hence the reason why they are working the way they’re working,” Mr. Miller said.

The bill would not apply to schools because the Supreme Court has said they must educate every child regardless of citizenship. Instead, Mr. Miller said it is aimed at groups such as the Woodbridge Workers Committee, which advocates and provides services for illegal aliens.

Nancy Lyall, legal coordinator for the group, said it is run on donations and that it already is denied every time it applies for any type of public funding.

“That’s not based on what’s good for Virginia taxpayers, but truly based on a movement to try to take out people of color from the various communities,” Miss Lyall said. “The work that these folks do is invaluable to us. They’ve been in our communities for years, and now they turn on them and try to deny them the help that they do get.”

The bill is one of a half-dozen Mr. Miller has introduced this year that targets illegal aliens.

“This bill is an open invitation for fishing expeditions and bureaucratic investigations of every faith-based organization in this commonwealth,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a lobbyist for the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations.

Miss Gastanaga said the state does not properly fund social services and relies on faith-based and community organizations to pick up the slack.

“Now you’re in a circumstance where essentially what you’re saying is organizations and institutions that are filling the gap are now going to be subjected to a bureaucratic nightmare of red tape to try to figure out who they’re serving and whether any of the state dollars … are serving this clientele,” she said.

Some delegates were worried the measure would prohibit organizations that receive taxpayer money from tending to people after disasters without first verifying their citizenship, but Mr. Miller said that wouldn’t be an intentional act and therefore wouldn’t fall under the bill.

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