Blog Archive

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Senate panel kills House-approved bills targeting illegal immigration

By Fredrick Kunkle
The Washington Post
February 16, 2011

A Democratic-led Senate subcommittee on Wednesday made short work of Republican bills sent over from the GOP-led House to crack down on illegal immigration, including a measure that would have applied Prince William County's strategy to the whole state.

HB1421 - the so-called anti-sanctuary bill sponsored by Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax)?


HB1465 -- a bill from Del. Christopher Peace (R-Hanover) that would require colleges and universities to adopt written policies prohibiting the enrollment of illegal aliens?


HB2332 -- Del. Scott Lingamfelter's proposal modeled on Prince William County that would require police to ascertain the immigration status of anyone arrested?


Hurrying because the full Senate was to convene late in the day -- and perhaps because the outcome was all but pre-ordained -- Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw pestered the subcommittee chairman, Sen. John S. Edwards, to move things along. And Edwards (D-Roanoke) did, sometimes giving witnesses less than a minute to speak or no time at all.

Then Saslaw would make a motion to kill the bill, Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) would second, and the Democrats, joined by Sen. Henry Marsh, would inevitably swamp Sen. Frederick M. Quayle, (R-Chesapeake), who several times cast the lone vote for Republicans.

"No one who pays attention to these things at all is surprised," said Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), whose closely watched bill designed to tally immigrant schoolchildren also died. "The Democrats threw in with the open-borders crowd a long time ago, so they're just being consistent."

His bill would have required local school boards to count the number of children who could not provide a birth certificate or enrolled in English as a Second Language courses.

The panel did approve measures to revoke drivers' licenses from people who are deported and to require some large government contractors to begin using the federal, computerized eVerify system to check workers' immigration status.

Although the panel voted to kill a stricter House eVerify bill sponsored by Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson), the members agreed to roll another eVerify measure sponsored by Del. Richard L. Anderson (R-Prince William) into a more lenient measure that Sen. George L. Barker and Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) shepherded through the Senate.

An overflow crowd filled the hearing room for the fast-moving hearing.

Supporters, such as the American Council for Immigration Reform, talked about the hidden costs of undocumented immigrants and crimes committed by illegal immigrants who should have been deported, including the triple slaying in Manassas on Feb. 10 that allegedly was committed by a man identified by police as an illegal immigrant.

"Several murders -- the one just last week -- may have been prevented if that person had been held," said John Kwapisz, of the Virginia chapter of the American Coalition for Immigration Reform.

A small contractor, Fred Laube, who owns Duke Construction, Inc. in Goochland, told the panel that he cannot compete with people willing to work for $3 or $4 an hour under the table while he pays taxes and files forms for his crews. He estimated that he has lost one out of every five possible home improvement jobs to competitors who use illegal immigrant labor and come in 30 percent under his estimates.

"We are paying what we are supposed to pay, and they don't," Laube said. "It's not fair."

Opponents warned that some bills would stir irrational fear and bigotry against immigrant communities, making them vulnerable to profiling or driving them further into the shadows.

Beatrice Amberman, founder of the Hispanic Community Dialogue Organization, warned some of the measures would damage the relationship between police and the immigrant community, who might be reluctant to report crimes.

Rebecca Jaramillo, of the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia, suggested that some of those who were motivated to take action against illegal immigration were motivated by bigotry and discomfort with sweeping demographic changes that she has welcomed.

"But there were some people who were not thrilled, and they have done and they have had some behaviors that, quite frankly, have made me ashamed to be from that area," Jaramillo said. "It is time for people like me to say 'Enough. We can accept these people into our commuintiy without changing the commuity too much.' "

Business groups, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, also pushed back against measures that would require them to use the federal eVerify program, saying that rushing to comply could be an extra burden, especially for smaller businesses.

Some Democrats also warned that the GOP-led crackdown could backfire in a state that has become much more diverse, according to the latest census.

"The Republicans are on a longterm kamikaze mission," Del. Scott A. Surovell, a Democrat in a Fairfax district whose percentage of white voters declined by 10 percent in the past decade. "What's next -- they're going to require the grocery stores toi find out if you're here legally before you can buy food?"