Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The city of Alexandria, Va., is expected to pass a resolution tonight renewing its commitment to extend public services to illegal aliens.

“We are reaffirming and recommitting our services and outreach to international citizens,” Mayor William D. Euille, a Democrat, said yesterday.

The seven-member City Council will vote on a two-page resolution that outlines Alexandria’s intent to comply with state and federal immigration laws but not question the immigration status of people seeking public services.

Mr. Euille said that the resolution should pass unanimously but that Alexandria has no figures on the cost of providing services to illegal aliens.

“We haven’t calculated that, and we probably won’t calculate that,” he said. “We have money designated for human services, but it’s not broken down by race.”

Alexandria must provide every resident with schooling, public health care and police protection. However, the city can extend such services as rental and burial assistance, job placement and emergency Medicaid without mandatory proof of legal residence, according to a memorandum to the resolution.

If the resolution is approved, Alexandria will follow Arlington as the second Northern Virginia jurisdiction in recent weeks to take such a stance.

The Alexandria resolution also states that police officers will check the immigration status of people who commit “serious crimes.” However, that duty will be handled by the sheriff’s office to keep the burden off city police, Mr. Euille said.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella S. Pepper, a Democrat, said the resolution is largely based on the commitment of city leaders to protect social diversity, not a direct response to other Virginia jurisdictions’ cracking down on illegal aliens.

In July, Prince William and Loudoun counties passed resolutions that deny public services to illegal aliens and toughen local enforcement of immigration laws.

As a result, Prince William County police must check the immigration status of detainees if there is probable cause to think that they have violated immigration laws.

In Maryland, the Frederick Board of County Commissioners tonight also will consider whether to recommend state lawmakers introduce similar legislation in the General Assembly. The legislation must go through the Assembly because Frederick’s government charter does not allow for such changes to be made.

Officials have said previously that the resolutions will likely fail in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

The D.C. Council last week unanimously passed a resolution calling for federal enforcement of immigration laws but said the actions by Prince William and Loudoun officials were discriminatory.

“I thought someone in our jurisdiction needed to stand up to what in my view was a bullying environment,” said David A. Catania, at-large independent, who brought the resolution to the council.

“The adoption of these laws — under the guise of assisting the federal government with its immigration enforcement — breeds a climate of fear, xenophobia and discrimination,” Mr. Catania’s measure reads.

The immigration debate over the past few years has been less contentious in the District than in surrounding suburbs.

But escalating tensions in the Brentwood neighborhood of Northeast between black residents and Hispanic day laborers has led council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, to consider putting a city-funded facility at a shopping center to connect workers, including illegal aliens, with jobs, despite community opposition.

Mr. Thomas did not return a call yesterday seeking comment on the status of the center. But he and the 11 other council members joined Mr. Catania in introducing the immigration resolution.

“Our city, our region and our country in many ways heavily rely on these groups of individuals,” said council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. “We as a nation of immigrants should know better.”

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