The Illegal Immigration Backlash Grows

It looks like the debate over illegal immigration is spilling out of the gubernatorial campaign. It’s not just Jerry Kilgore blasting illegal immigrants anymore. House Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax, and other Republican legislators held a press conference at an American Legion hall in Springfield yesterday to announce a broad-based crackdown on illegals:

  • Require county-funded day labor centers to check for legal presence in Virginia.
  • End in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens at Virginia public colleges and universities.
  • Give local law enforcement the authority to detain and deport illegal aliens such as drug traffickers and violent gang members who have been charged with a separate crime.
  • Stiffen penalties on the unlawful manufacture and use of birth certificates and drivers’ licenses for illicit purposes.
  • Require the State Board of Elections to confirm if a voter is a citizen and remove illegal aliens from voter rolls.
  • Establish sanctions for businesses in Virginia that knowingly hire illegal aliens, among others.

The Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. estimates that Virginia currently has approximately 200,000 illegal aliens – including a heavy concentration in the Northern
Virginia metropolitan region – which represents a tripling of that population since 1996. As Del. John S. “Jack” Reid (R-Henrico), put it, according to the Washington Post: “People who come here illegally and are not willing to go through the process [of becoming citizens] are not welcome, and I don’t want them here.”

Please note: The growing anti-illegal movement is not an anti-immigrant movement. No one is talking about undertaking measures against immigrants who have played by the rules. This is not an anti-Latino movement. This is a simply a movement that seeks to reclaim control over fundamental aspect of any nation state — the rights and obligations of non-citizens– that seems to be spinning out of control.

Is every idea proffered by the Republicans a good one? I don’t know. But the proposals seem worthy of debate. Let’s not shut off debate by accusing Howell & Co. of nativism, prejudice or negativism. Let’s have an honest and open discussion.

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40 responses to “The Illegal Immigration Backlash Grows”

  1. kingfish Avatar

    Immigration reform is a good issue- for a Federal election. Are we supposed to shut our borders at the Potomoc and the Dismal Swamp?
    The real issue here , for this election, is that big government Republicans want to dictate, from Richmond, to a locality as to what the locality can do to solve a local problem. Small government champions ought to be rallying to the defense of the locality’s right to make a decision that works for its people. I thought that was the conservative position.
    This sort of reminds me of 1977, when the GOP candidate for Lt Governor ran on a platform against the transfer of the Panama Canal. He may have been right, but what did it have to do with Virginia government? The same applys today.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    As much as the issue might not be about anti-Latino or anti-immigrant, that’s the politics behind the issue and there’s no getting around it.

    I heard, straight out of their mouths at their GOTV trainings, that they are focusing on immigration because from all their polling they found that it could potentially be a great “white male” motivator, regardless of whether immigration affects them at all or is even an issue in their region. It’s also something that’s a subject on national conservative talk radio of late, and they figure they can tpa into that as well. That’s the perspective from which the focus on this issue comes: not policy, but getting white guys angry enough to vote.

    Not to mention that after Jerry launched this issue, we had many such Letters to the Editor that went “Bah yeah immigration! I saw some Mexican looking people working on gardening services around town! Damn immigrants!” Conservative blogs linked to this very blogroll posted pictures of Latinos in public and called them illegals. Maybe they were illegals maybe they weren’t (the gardening service people certainly weren’t: that’s a self-owned business), but no one really seemed care. They were Latino and on a street corner. Illegals, clearly. It’s just unavoidable in this state that a campaign based on this issue is going to rile up those sorts of folks. You can’t choose this issue without knowing that.

    Now immigration is an important issue. But the reality here is that on the local level, there’s really not any serious difference amongst any candidate, at least not from the perspective of anyone doing anything about it. Does Kilgore have the power to stop Herndon from spending money to deal with its immigration problems the way it wants to? No (it’s not even a hypothetical!). Is there really much difference between any candidate on enforcing the laws against illegal immigration and companies that hire such work? Not really. So why is the issue being played up so much?

    Guess what: it’s the “white male motivator” factor. Not any nuanced public policy debate.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The process for becoming a legal worker or for getting documents allowing you to have a worker are broken. You cannot play by the rules and still play.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous: Immigration might be a “white male” motivator, I won’t dispute that. But one could just as legitimately argue that opposition to illegal-immigration reform is a “Hispanic” motivator or a “minorities” motivator. The fact is, there are two levels to this discourse: One is the grimey political level that appeals to peoples’ fears and prejudices. And there is a lofty public policy level, which, hopefully, relies upon reason. I try to appeal to peoples’ reason, not pander to their prejudices. The fact that someone else relies upon emotion does not negate my arguments based on reason.

  5. Avatar

    Jim – this is a legit issue to discuss, but the politics can’t be ignored. If this were coming up during the GA session, then I would see it as a real debate. But, that it’s an election issue seems rather desperate and in keeping with Anon’s point. Illegal Immigration in VA is really a non-issue outside of NoVa because the levels of legal immigration are low. Aside from the white males, there’s already been work afoot to stir up resentment on the part of blacks – the whole Vicente Fox thing was part and parcel of that.

    In talking with immigration social work types, the illegals here are coming for either traditional migrant farm work in the outlying counties or, increasingly, for construction work in the inner suburbs due to the rapid homebuilding. Given that, if we want a higher-plane policy discussion, the last bullet point – punishing businesses for hiring illegals – should be issue #1. These folks aren’t just coming here to hang out – they come for work and businesses hire them. Maybe if the home-builders weren’t wasting so much money trying to attack Kaine or local officials in Chesterfield, they could spend the $100K+ in educational materials for their members to stop hiring illegals. The other folks hiring them are farmers/agbusiness and small businesses – yet another GOP-friendly interest group. That drives everything. So, my question is, “What part of illegal doesn’t Virginia’s business community understand?”

    — Conaway

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Hmmm…didn’t Dave Albo say, “Kick them all out!!!” in the washington post? Why yes, he did. Very thoughtful and lofty level of rhetoric there, Dave.

    The real issue with Dave Albo is his trouble supporting sexual predators…and his attempt to lower the penalty for child molestation.

    What is Albo’s side of the story?

    Albo Alibi #1: Just Another Option! Albo first claimed (very creatively) that his attempt to downgrade penalties for child rape would not actually be a reduction in punishment, because he left the originial, much tougher Rape law on the books as well. This is little different than if Albo had introduced a bill to make bank robbery a misdemeanor, then denied he had done anything wrong because felony bank robbery was still on the books as well.

    Albo Alibi #2: What Are They Talking About? Albo next claimed that he could not understand PROTECT’s objections at all, that they simply made no sense to any of his Richmond cronies. Yet he managed to remove every last word that we opposed under pressure from PROTECT and Virginia citizens.

    Albo Alibi #3: Saving Sodomy… Albo has also claimed that his bill was an attempt to make sure laws against sodomizing children would still be on the books if the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s sodomy laws for adults as unconstitutional (under the Lawrence v. Texas decision). This tortured argument ignores the fact that if Albo really believed the Supreme Court was addressing child sexual assault (and not just adult consensual sex) and he wanted to make sure he kept sodomy against children a crime, he should have made it a real crime, requiring mandatory prison time. But he didn’t. It also does not explain why he also included sexual intercourse and other acts in his expanded definition of “custodial indecent liberties.”

    Albo Alibi #4: Protecting Teens… Albo also claims that House Bill 1054 would have been a new tool that actually increased penalties for sex with teens. They say that if an adult has sex with an older teenager who is in the adult’s custody or under his supervision, it could be considered a misdemeanor (contributing to the delinquency of a minor). But the truth is, the Albo bill applies to babies and young children, not just teens.

  7. I think the Republicans are definitely hoping to win with the help of racism.

    If this was really about controlling illegal immigration, the commercials would show politicans getting tough on farmers and business owners who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

    Of course they do not, and that is very telling.

  8. Agitator Avatar

    South, your assertions that illegal immigration is only a concern in NOVA couldn’t be further from the truth. The Valley, Harrisonburg in particular, is dealing with the effects of illegal immigration and in fact, its school system deals with more foreign languages then anyone in the state (not a bad thing, just a note to show migration patterns).

    The point is is that illegal immigration is a legitmate concern to the Commonwealth, and we need frank discussion about it at the local, state and federal level (reps and Senators) in order to deal with its backdoor effects.

  9. Avatar

    Ok, so make that NOVA and certain other isolated geographies, like Harrisonburg. I guess that my larger point is that while this is a legit issue to discuss, in the hierarchy of pressing issues for the entire Commonwealth, this one is not high up on the list. But, it should happen nonetheless…in the General Assembly session, first, then the campaign.

    I also don’t agree with those who feel that it’s only a federal issue. Unfortunately, until the feds decide to act, the states are going to have to innovate on this issue. The first thing that we can, and should see, is more public education and more crackdown on those who hire illegals.

    — Conaway

  10. kingfish Avatar

    This is so impractical and so blatantly timed to be exploited politically that it is difficult to have a serious discussion on policy. For example, will the law of Virginia be that only citizens and legal aliens can use public facilities? In that case, will I have to produce citizenship papers each time I want to go to the public library, courthouse or worker centers? Are we going to become one of those societies in which you always have to have your papers with you? Hello?
    And I am serious about the Republican retreat from the small government perspective. Once they assumed power in Richmond, or Washington for that matter, they are no different than what came before. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  11. Agitator Avatar

    This issue has been brewing and festering for years…just because some of us have ignored it doesn’t mean its not out there. Its been talked about on and off in the campaign (the Herndon issue comes to mind)

    Its going to be an issue for the next administration in this Commonwealth and I want it talked about yesterday, today and tommorow, gubinatorial elections or not!

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Scott, the Republican legislators are talking about cracking down on employers who knowingly employ illegals. We’ll see if they carry that through in 2006, but that’s not insignificant. They’ll be going after their own constituents. When’s the last time a Democrat passed a law that punished his constituents?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “And there is a lofty public policy level, which, hopefully, relies upon reason. I try to appeal to peoples’ reason, not pander to their prejudices.”

    I agree. But that’s you. You’d bring up this issue because the issue is actually of importance. But that’s just not why its coming up in the context of this political race, and trying to discuss the issue in the same context as trying to claim that Howell & Co. are not exploiting nativism, prejudice or negativism is no way to start off the discussion either.

    The policies can stand on their own merits. But that doesn’t mean that any gets a free pass on politics. This is coming up in an election year, in the midst of a campaign where Republican candidates are desperately casting around for something that will save their races. That makes the discussion pretty darn cloudy, especially when brought up in the context of politics.

  14. Salt Lick Avatar

    End in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens at Virginia public colleges and universities.

    I didn’t realize this was present policy in Virginia. Can someone explain the rationale for it?

  15. How about Tim Kaine?

    ~ the blue dog

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    There is such miss-information out there about illegal immigrants. Yes they should not be here illegally, but they’re mostly taking jobs the rest of us don’t want. This is not a major issue unless you factor in race. This is the real motivator for doing something like this.

  17. Terry M. Avatar

    Salt Lick, actually, it is not state policy for illegal aliens to be eligible for in-state tuition. SCHEV’s guidelines for domicile are clear on this point:

    I. Undocumented and illegal aliens. Students unable to present valid, current INS documentation of their alien status are not eligible for in-state tuition.

    Further, Kilgore, as AG, issued a ruling stating this fact. A number of bills were put forward in the last two sessions to change it.

    The only real question to study is that of “undocumented aliens.’ These are students, brought to the US as children by their parents, who have attended schools elementary through secondary, who have grown up believing they were in fact Americans. because of federal education law, such students must be provided elementary and secondary education without question as to their status and then that comes to an abrupt halt when they seek to go to go college.

  18. Jim:
    With all due respect, while I agree that there are real issues deserving of mature and informed discussion and debate related to our federal immigration policy and the abject lack of any will to enforce it as written, I have to agree with Conaway and others that you can’t separate the current political emphasis on the issue of illegal immigration from the issue of race or ethnicity. Nor can I say that the political use of the issue in this election cycle is predicated on anything other than how the issue polled in terms of its ability to “inflame” the base.

    It is true that Harrionsburg has the highest % of ESL students of any school division in the state and the third largest number of languages spoken after Arlington and Fairfax. But, Spanish is only one of the 85 languages spoken by students in Arlington and the dozens of languages spoken in Harrisonburg, yet you might not know that from the rhetoric being flung about.

    Do you see comments anywhere about “those Russian, Serbian,Irish” or other Caucasian immigrants, many of whom come here illegally to work in the tourism industry and elsewhere?

    Do you read blog entries from the Valley advocating that the ICE plane come and take “those damn” Eastern Europeans home? Nope, no sir. That plane’s only supposed to land at Weyer’s Cave to pick up those Mexicans and Guatemalans.

    You only read about this “issue” in the context of Latino day laborers, Mexican gangs, Asian gangs, etc. And, then there’s the legislative aide for a senior senator from Southside Virginia who looked a person of Mexican descent (but not too brown looking) right in the eye when being lobbied on legal presence issues and said something to the effect of “I hope that one world stuff doesn’t come to pass while I’m alive. I want my grandchildren to have blond hair and blue eyes.”

    So, I do think that we need to be honest that this is an “issue” now largely because the (still)majority white population in this country sees our growing dependence on foreign born workers, many of whom are people of color, as a threat to their majority status? Political power?
    Or, perhaps, it is just the fear of “other,” stoked by the natural tendency of an aging population to focus on personal security and ignited by the events of 9/11.

    We do need a civil debate.

    But, that’s not what’s being encouraged by the political ads that suggest without foundation and contrary to the JLARC report and every other source that “millions” are being spent on services to “illegal immigrants.”

    That’s not what’s being encouraged by the comments made by those politicians present at this week’s press conference.

    What’s being encouraged in this election cycle is unreasoned fear of people who look different from me and you and whose first language was other than English.

  19. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I’ll wait until after the election to post my civil two cents for the Commonwealth. I’ve written about illegal immigraion before in op eds. Not that anyone cares, just sharing that I’ll keep my peace until after 8 Nov.
    Have a nice day.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    I think my favorite immigration piece of direct-mail is the one with Kilgore standing next to two swarthy “immigrants” with their hands in plastic -tie cuffs. Only, the way that Kilgore and the immigrants are scaled, it looks like two giants with a smug Lilliputan Kilgore standing by. “Kilgore, Virginia’s tiniest politican is tough on immigrants! Such a shin-kicking they’ll get like they’ve never had before!”

  21. AWCheney Avatar

    I don’t understand the charge of racism regarding an issue which should fall under the category of law and order. Taken point by point: A citizen of the US who is not a LEGAL resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia would not be entitled to in-state tuition; a citizen who is participating in illegal drug trafficking and violent gang activities can, and should be detained; there SHOULD be stiff penalties for the unlawful manufacture and use of birth certificates and drivers’ licenses for illicit purposes by anyone; a CITIZEN who is not properly registered, according to the law, in the locality in which they are voting is breaking the law and should be taken to task; and businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens are complicit in breaking the law. The only point that I see as a gray area is arbitrarily checking for illegals at day labor centers…this could be construed as harrassment and a potential violation of a citizens’ 4th Amendment rights.

    Are we so concerned with being “politically correct” that we should elevate the rights of people breaking the law above those of all citizens of this country…and this state?

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Heard a news report recently –

    nearly 50% of the deadly vehicle crashes on the Eastern Shore were caused by improper driving actions of illegal immigrants.

    Illegal immigration is also crushing the Eastern Shore school divisions.

    In addition to cracking down on the illegal immigrants, we must have stiff penalties for those that hire illegal immigrants. In most cases it’s not too hard for an employer to figure out who is illegal just from the paperwork presented. Of course, some of the bogus paperwork is very authentic and one really has no way to know for certain.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    “Are we so concerned with being “politically correct” that we should elevate the rights of people breaking the law above those of all citizens of this country…and this state?”

    The problem is, none of what you list is controversial. Pretty much everyone already supports it. What’s left is grandstanding over bizarre issues like Herndon.

  24. AWCheney Avatar

    anon. 9:50
    If everyone agrees with the points that Speaker Howell and the other Republican legislators made (which was my list, point by point), being noncontroversial as you say, why is everyone slamming them?

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    This issue is Sheer Political Brillance. It’s got Kaine in the crosshairs of moderates and conservatives, you know….”Mark Warner” types. The base is coming back home to the Republican Party on this issue. Here is my challenge to all you blogheads: Find the Brainchild! Who is the brainchild? This is a true Virginia political mystery!
    Find the Brainchild and you find out the rationale behind the effort.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Because its grandstanding on the backs of racial tensions for election purposes, not a stance on a policy issue.

  27. AWCheney Avatar

    anon 10:27
    Then, by that logic, you are saying that the illegal alien issue is indeed racist and not actually a law and order issue? You make my point. You claim the points to be noncontroversial, suggesting you agree with them, but YOU politicize it by suggesting that, because the Republican legislators brought it up during an election season, the issue is racist. I just can’t understand the logic of that. Fact is, we are seldom without an election season at some level. By that reasoning, it’s not so much the issue as it is who promotes it (or, should I say, promotes it first).

  28. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    This issue has been like crack cocaine to Republicans in this election. It will be about as healthy for the GOP as crack cocaine.

    This is an extraordinarily complex issue in Northern Virginia, particularly. We have substantial legal immigration here and it has many effects, a substantial subset of which are positive. There are legal immigrants and non-legal immigrants. In all the ethnic communities, these people are very much over-lapped. There can be no defense of illegal immigration, but the way it has been presented in this statewide campaign gives credence to those who say it is a low-ball pitch to activate racist, nativist tendencies in the electorate.

    There are state and local impacts of illegal immigration. they have almost nothing to do with the responsibilities of any statewide officer. The atmospherics around this issue suggest strongly that some birght sparks in the political consultant community think this would be just a hum-dinger of an issue to spill out the Know-nothing vote.

    The Republican Party has made some progress in the past decade in appealing to the fast-growing immigrant community. I am hopeful about that progress. But I see nothing in this year’s race that suggests that we will maintain the good will of the Hispanic community when we talk stupidity and suspicion about illegal immigration.

    Many of the comments on the blogs confirm that this is an effort to energize those elements who do not have the time, understanding or patience to think deeply about the pros and cons of our immigration situation. The legal immigrant community has worked so hard to contribute to our communities in Northern Virginia that they are entitle to smell rot in positions that are permeated with blind nativism. This leads to Democratic votes. Not my idea of a good issue.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “Then, by that logic, you are saying that the illegal alien issue is indeed racist and not actually a law and order issue? You make my point. You claim the points to be noncontroversial, suggesting you agree with them, but YOU politicize it by suggesting that, because the Republican legislators brought it up during an election season, the issue is racist. I just can’t understand the logic of that. Fact is, we are seldom without an election season at some level. By that reasoning, it’s not so much the issue as it is who promotes it (or, should I say, promotes it first).”

    Who, how, when, and why.

    The why is the most clear. This really IS a GOTV effort, not a sincere policy passion. I mean, it’s not even a secret. This is what the Kilgore campaign sat down and told their people: they sat down and polled on this and figured this would be the way to motivate more angry white guys to vote. The who include folks from areas that have no illegal immigration problems whatsoever. The when is right in the midst of an increasingly desperate campaign season. And the how is by basically misleading Virginians about the realities of immigration policy and the complications involved in dealing with it. I’d say that’s all a pretty poor batting record.

  30. AWCheney Avatar

    Anon 12:17, I hope you are wrong with your analysis and that that they are not merely pandering to a dark side of human nature. I really hope that there will, indeed, be a sincere effort by the General Assembly to address the problem of ILLEGAL aliens (and I agree with the individual who posted that “illegal aliens” should not only reference the Hispanic, but all those here illegally).

    My parents were came to this country LEGALLY in the early ’50s, both immigrants. It was a far more difficult process in those days than it is today. My parents were required to have a sponsor who agreed to make sure that my father had a job waiting, a place to live, and the sponsor himself had to agree to accept responsibility for my parents (financial and otherwise) for a minimum period of one year after their arrival. Today’s legal immigrants have far fewer requirements, yet I’d be willing to bet that a great many of them are themselves concerned at the massive influx of illegals into this country.

    This is the issue and, for any thinking person, it is not a racist issue but one of law. If you want the borders open, then pass the law and bear the consequences. We’ll see if the legislators, both state and federal, will indeed address this issue after the elections in a sane and reasonable manner…I hope they do.

  31. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Claire, You wrote: “Do you see comments anywhere about ‘those Russian, Serbian, Irish’ or other Caucasian immigrants, many of whom come here illegally to work in the tourism industry and elsewhere?”

    How many Russians, Serbs, Irish, Poles or other European ethnicities are working illegally in Virginia? I imagine there are some, but perhaps the reason the Virginia public doesn’t associate those ethnicities with “illegal alien” is that their numbers are trifling. If there are large numbers of illegals of European origin, I will gladly stand corrected. Please share any numbers you may have.

  32. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I don’t know how many there are, Jim, but in recent months I have met four individuals who were from Georgia or Beylorus or some other former Sviet area. I only know because I noticed the strange accent and asked. I was very surprised in one case because the accesnt was French.

    Other than the accent, how would you know?

  33. Ray Hyde Avatar

    AWC. It is not hard, it’s impossible. I have been trying to sponsor someone for over five years.

  34. Tired Immigrant Avatar
    Tired Immigrant

    Being against ILLEGAL immigration is fine, but only if one’s primary concern is whether the laws are just. My story shows they aren’t so, and I’m one of the lucky ones whom the law “favors”.

  35. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ray, Are those individuals from Georgia and Belorussia here legally, or illegally, or don’t you know?

  36. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Don’t know, but these are not people you would think had a high priority technical visa, and they are not employed in menial jobs.

    Such people could very well have relatives here. All I know is my guy is still waiting, and so am I.

  37. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Maybe we don’t recognize them as illegal because they are not brown.

  38. AWCheney Avatar

    Ray Hyde:
    I forgot to mention that my parents also waited for years to come over under a strict quota system from what was then a very depressed part of the world after the 2nd World War…Europe, specifally Germany. They came under far more scrutiny than the vast majority of immigrants today.

    With regard to the presence of illegal aliens from European areas, they are also here. I was sitting in my van in the local WalMart parking lot waiting for my teenagers to finish spending money I didn’t have (j/k) when a gentleman approached my open window and said that he was unable to find work and asked if I could help him with either a job or money (he was begging). I asked him if he was homeless (didn’t look like it…too well-dressed) and he said that he was living with friends. From his accent he was East European, probably Serbian. I then asked him if he was here legally. He hesitated and then said no. My response to him was, I believe, what any potential employer should say to an illegal alien…perhaps you should go back and do it right. Sorry, but that’s the way I feel. And he was NOT Hispanic.

  39. Ray Hyde Avatar

    AWC: evidently you are very lucky to be here. Welcome.

    I concieve I am lucky to be here also.

    I agree illegals should not be here, that is why Jesus is still in Mexico and why I still do without him. It does neither me nor him any good, however. Meanwhile I am waiting for action from a woman named Rodriguez: I wonder if her parents were legal. And this isn’t even for immigration: it is a temporary agricultural work permit. How long does that need to take?

    We are already using chain link fence, heat and sound sensing equipment, dogs, vigilantes, and unmanned aircraft to keep them out. How much money would you be willing to spend to make an airtight border? How much to transport everyone home who shouldn’t be here? Several times.
    How much to jail the ones we get tired of shipping home?

    I think we should have a system that works reasonably well for the money we spend. Right now, we don’t. To the extent that system fails, we ought to turn that failure to our advantage. Right now we don’t.

    Let’s face it. Whether it is quotas or proffers, we put them in place because we can’t stand the idea of somebody new in “our” space.

    What do you suppose the American Indian’s concept of illegal aliens was?

  40. Wonder if the Republican Party knows about the “latino-educated-woman” factor?

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