Corey Stewart wants Virginia to be Arizona
Once again playing the wedge politics of fear and discrimination, Corey A. Stewart is beating the drum for Virginia to adopt Arizona-style immigation laws.
The chairman of the Prince WIlliam County Board of Supervisors has been on Fox News pushing the Old Dominion to go statewide with the same anti-Hispanic laws that he pushed through in 2007. Stewart claimed on Fox News that Arizona's laws were modeled after the ones he won for his still-largely white and affluent suburb.
According to Stewart, the time is right for Virginia's General Assembly to require police to arrest people they think might be illegal immigrants, close day-labor centers and forbid roadside job solicitation, among other measures designed specifically to thwart Latinos looking for a day's work.
The upcoming General Assembly session in 2011 will be followed by elections later in the year, making 2011 an ideal time to make the Copper State law the template for Virginia, he says.
Curiously, Fox and Stewart pushed some facts about the 2007 law that seem, well, a bit funny. One contention was that the 2007 Prince William law has brought down violent crime in the county by 38 percent and that English-as-a-second-language classes in public schools have thankfully been brought down to about zero (as if that were a worthy goal in our increasingly globalized world).
But the advocacy group MediaMatters for America, citing Prince William County statistics, counters that after the county law was passed, violent crime actually increased 10.9 percent in 2009. Undocumented immigrants accounted for only a small percentage of any kind of crime. As far as I can tell, what the law has done is make hard-working Hispanics uncomfortable and encouraged them to flee to surrounding areas, where they confront less racism.
Another point: Prince WIlliam is not exactly teeming with rapes, robberies, murders, mayhem, drive-by shootings and gang warfare. A recent University of Wisconsin health study shows that Prince William had a violent crime rate (incidents per 100,000 population) of 206, based on data from 2005 through 2007. If you want to find violent crime in Virginia, look at Portsmouth (847 incidents per 100,000 population) or the city of Richmond (1,068).
Three decades ago, I was a police reporter in both cities and saw quite a bit of bloodletting of the inner-city, drug-related variety. Prince William may have some violent crime, but it is too much of a middle-class to upper-middle-class Washington bedroom community to have the kind of crime you find in the District or in Virginia metropolitan centers.
It is a shame that Virginia has to go down this road once again. Hard-working Hispanics will suffer merely because of the color of their skin while the Corey Stewarts of the world court votes from fringe elements and the mainstream by playing up fears of crime and falling property values.
The vast majority of those Stewart views as problem class are folks who just want to make a living and feed their families.They are willing to do jobs that many native-born Americans aren't willing to do. What's needed more than these discriminatory laws is national immigration reform that reflects economic realities and the true nature of labor demand.
| June 25, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: D.C., D.C. politics, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, economy, education, health care, housing, public health, race, real estate, schools
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