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Move 'Em On, Head 'Em Up: Herding Immigrants in Va.

RICHMOND

Move 'em on, head 'em up,

Head 'em up, move 'em on

The herd in question consists of bills -- bills aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants, bills being corralled through the gates of the Virginia legislature. You can just about hear the theme song from the classic TV western "Rawhide" as these bills, dozens and dozens of them, move through the House Rules Committee at a rate of about one every three minutes.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'

Debate? Who needs it? Votes? A quick muttering of "yea" does the trick. Hardly anyone at a committee meeting this week bothers to demur.

Eager to send the message that Virginia is not for illegal immigrants, lawmakers have loaded the General Assembly's session with all manner of ways to make the state unappealing to foreigners who don't have permission to be in the country.

If all the bills pass, illegal immigrants would be banned from enrolling in public colleges, barred from getting a mortgage on a house and liable to be fired if they don't speak English at work. There's even a resolution, by Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, the Fairfax Republican, to ask Congress to initiate a change to the 14th Amendment so that citizenship would no longer be granted automatically to anyone born in the United States. At least one parent would have to be a citizen before a child could be eligible for citizenship at birth.

"I'd like us to make Virginia the most welcoming place in the country for people who come here legally," says Del. Jeff Frederick, a Prince William Republican. "And Virginia is going to be the least hospitable place for those who break the law."

Not all of the bills are aimed directly at illegal immigrants. The proposals include measures that would turn huge numbers of Virginians into surrogate enforcement agents. Prison officials, police officers, state contractors and other employers would have to check whether potential employees are in the country legally. It would become a felony to "harbor, transport or conceal an illegal alien." Anyone in a state-regulated industry caught with an illegal immigrant on the payroll would face fines of up to $10,000 per violation.

If you sought to change your name legally, you'd have to prove your citizenship. Same if you applied for a driver's license, tax exemption or contractor's license. Colleges would have to check freshmen's birth certificates and report the results on a public Web site.

Anyone -- not just illegal immigrants -- who speaks a foreign language and is convicted in a trial in Virginia would be required to pay for an interpreter.

And if you're thinking of renting out a single-family house, you'd face fines if you let more than four unrelated people live there. "If 30 people can live together in a house, their rent is cheaper, and that gives them an unfair advantage over legal Americans," says Del. Bob Marshall, a Prince William Republican who wrote more immigration-related bills than any other legislator. "My bill says that even if you have the 12 apostles in the house, if they're unrelated, you're going to be fined."

(Lest you think Marshall is antagonistic to immigrants, he hastens to note: "We're all made in God's image; I'm more angry at the employers who give them jobs than I am at the poor folks coming over the border.")

Through rain an' wind an' weather

Hellbent for leather

So the boys -- there is one woman among 15 members -- on the Rules Committee are having a whale of a time, pushing through the bills, racking up points with their angry, frustrated constituents. Who cares if most of the bills are destined to die in the Senate? What's it to you if a fair number "are unconstitutional bills that everyone wants to do but can't?" Not my words, but those of Del. David Albo, a Fairfax Republican who is sponsoring several immigration bills.

Rather than concoct new ways to make life miserable for immigrants, Albo says it makes more sense "for all of us to agree that people who commit crimes should all be looked at for their legal status, whether they have a Hispanic accent or they talk like [Terry] Kilgore," the delegate from Gate City known around the Capitol for his syrupy drawl. "We can at least tee them up for [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to go get 'em."

Or maybe the legislative frenzy won't amount to much. "Some of these are just show bills," Cuccinelli says. "Some certainly have constitutional problems. At the end of the session, the result won't match up to the public's expectation. We're taking a shot at fixing it, but the election went the way it did."

Despite the noise from the loud minority devoted to driving illegal immigrants back where they came from, voters were swayed by other concerns and handed control of the Senate to Democrats last fall. But in Richmond, House delegates stick to their old ways.

Don't try to understand 'em

Just rope, throw, an' brand 'em

Soon we'll be livin' high an' wide.

By Marc Fisher |  January 31, 2008; 7:10 AM ET
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Comments

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a felony for harboring immigrants....sounds like it being a felony for harboring slaves. thank goodness the democratic senate and governor will keep the bigots at bay.

Posted by: IMGoph | January 31, 2008 9:30 AM

Remember, Virginia is for lovers...

Posted by: Jose Cuervo | January 31, 2008 10:20 AM

"I'd like us to make Virginia the most welcoming place in the country for people who come here legally," says Del. Jeff Frederick, a Prince William Republican. "And Virginia is going to be the least hospitable place for those who break the law."

That sounds like an excellent principle to work with. It's a shame a certain segment of Virginia's elite has such trouble with a really basic concept.

"If you sought to change your name legally, you'd have to prove your citizenship. Same if you applied for a driver's license, tax exemption or contractor's license. Colleges would have to check freshmen's birth certificates and report the results on a public Web site."

I hate to call you a liar, but are you certain that the bills read "citizenship" and not "legally in the U.S." or something similar. Virginia is not going to go on a rampage against the millions of immigrants here legally.

"Anyone -- not just illegal immigrants -- who speaks a foreign language and is convicted in a trial in Virginia would be required to pay for an interpreter."

This says "convicted" not "suspected." How is this any different than current laws requiring convicts to cover court costs in general or to reimburse the state for room/board while they serve their prison time? Like most hicks in Virginia, I'm opposed to taxpayers having to subsidize convicted rapists and murderers, regardless of their immigration status.

"a felony for harboring immigrants....sounds like it being a felony for harboring slaves"

Illegal immigrants are great! You don't have to pay them a living wage, you don't have to provide them health insurance or any other benefits, you don't have to pay taxes on them, and best of all, you can fire them or abuse them at will and there's nothing they can legally do about it. Illegals! Everyone should own one!!

Posted by: athea | January 31, 2008 10:32 AM

I just want to thank Marc for working the theme song from Rawhide into his blog. For those who don't know, this was the TV western that starred Eric Fleming. Some guy named Eastwood had a supporting role.

Posted by: Jack | January 31, 2008 10:59 AM

I'm with Marc. Without the illegals we both will have to do our own lawn work.

Posted by: NoVA | January 31, 2008 12:42 PM

Fischer doesn't think that Americans have a right to limit who might enter and settle within our country. Perhaps he should allow anyone in his neighborhood to waltz through his home and do what they will.

Posted by: Derek L | January 31, 2008 1:19 PM

They probably will not waltz through Marc's house, but rather do the cha-cha, the meringue, the salsa, the limbo, the can-can, and/or start a conga line.

If you are going to try to insult Marc at least get your metaphors correct...

Posted by: Jose Cuervo | January 31, 2008 2:03 PM

Right. Thw waltz is so reactionary. Salsa is the dance for a new America.

Posted by: Derek L | January 31, 2008 2:30 PM

Big thumbs up for the state of Virginia. States will have to deal with issue because the feds can't, unless your willing to live with Amnesty. To stop illegal immigration, it will have to be at the door steps of the employers. That is why the feds can't do it. Thank you Virginia, more states will follow.

Posted by: howard | January 31, 2008 5:23 PM

I wonder if people knew how many millions of illegal immigrants in this country are from predominantly "white" countries (e.g., Ireland, England, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia, etc.) and, if so, whether this potentially staggering figure would change their mind on this issue?

I know many such folks who came her for a vacation - and never left.

Posted by: Jose Cuervo | January 31, 2008 5:28 PM

Re the last poster about illegal immigrants from "white" countries: Back in the 70s and 80s when Ireland's economy was still in the tank, NY, Chicago and Boston were full of young Irish guys and gals who came for a "vacation" and then found jost in the construction trades, restaurants and other businesses. They were abetted by the strong Irish communities in those cities--and by the fact that they had blue eyes and spoke English with a darlin' accent.

Posted by: Jack | February 1, 2008 9:21 AM

I hope the Commonwealth's tourism slogan will be adjusted for accuracy. How about: "Virginia is for Xenophobia?"

Posted by: Mike Licht | February 1, 2008 2:07 PM

Fisher and some others here use racism or discrimination as an excuse for the actual argument: illegal aliens are here illegally.

When your average citizen sees these illegal activities on the such a large scale, and it is left unchecked, they lose respect for the rule of law.

Posted by: Tim | February 2, 2008 1:14 PM

I am so glad I live in Maryland (where at least the furor is not as great). Virginia, as Mike has just pointed out, is slowly becoming the xenophobia capital of the United States.

People, just chill out!

Posted by: Henry | February 3, 2008 8:30 AM

Virginia -- especially Prince William County on south -- isn't for lovers anymore. It's now for backward southerners.

Posted by: Vincent | February 3, 2008 6:03 PM

I have absolutely no problem with a law that limits the number of unrelated people living together in a house to 4. I'm bothered by the fact that this law is being used as a means to "herd the immigrants," but I think I'm more concerned by the generally unhealthy idea of turning homes into boarding houses.

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