House GOP announces program against illegal immigration
A group of House Republicans announced plans Tuesday to put forward a package of at least 16 bills aimed at illegal immigrants, including bills that would revoke the driving licenses of deportees, block illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and universities, and require the state to begin tracking the number of undocumented children in public schools.
"America is a nation of immigrants," said Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), who is leading the task force appointed by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). "We are also nation founded on the rule of law, the right to possess private property and a common American identity."
Lingamfelter said state action was needed because the federal government has "completely failed" to protect its borders.
The package unveiled Tuesday includes similar bills - HB2332 and HB1430 -- that would require authorities to ascertain the immigration status of anyone "taken into custody" to make sure that the check would apply to those who were arrested by police but released on bail or bond before being taken to jail. Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) would require parents who enroll children in public school to disclose their immigration status and require the state to tally the numbers. Del. Christopher Peace (R-Hanover) would prohibit illegal aliens from enrolling in public higher education institutions. Other bills would force all public contractors, employers with more than 15 employees and all local governments to enroll in the E-Verify Program to ascertain the status of newly hired employees.
Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) said that although the group was motivated by a recent, controversial law in Arizona that gave police sweeping new powers to inquire of people's immigration status, the final package represented a more moderate approach that should pass constitutional muster. But even Republicans acknowledge that few, if any, have a chance in the Democratically controlled Senate.
"It's mostly filling in loopholes," Albo said.
Virginia already denies driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and all taxpayer-paid services except those mandated by law, such as public education or emergency medical care.
"Virginia has passed some of the most aggressive measures against undocumented immigrants, yet it never seems to be enough for these guys," said Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Mount Vernon). "I find it fascinating that all these small-government conservatives are advocating expensive, big-government intrusions into duties the federal government already does."
The Republicans backing the immigration bills rejected criticism that their proposals could fan racial tensions or sacrifice the GOP's future prospects for immediate political gain. Latinos, for example, as the nation's largest minority, add almost half a million voters to the rolls every year, as Surovell pointed out during a speech on the floor of the House during Tuesday's session.
Lingamfelter also dismissed analyses that suggest that the GOP could be sacrificing long-term viability for short-term success.
"I'm proud to be part of a party that believes in the rule of law," he said.
Members of the caucus believe that even if the bills did not pass - and at least some will certainly face long odds in the Democratic-controlled Senate -- they hoped that their introduction in the General Assembly would make the federal government take note and do more to enforce existing immigration laws. The message, as Lingamfelter put it, would be: "We expect you to get off your keester and get busy and enforce the laws of this nation."
| January 18, 2011; 3:05 PM ET
Categories: Fredrick Kunkle, House of Delegates, Immigration, William Howell
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