Illegal Immigration at the Forefront
Friday, September 30, 2005
Virginia Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) has drafted a sheaf of legislation to further restrict illegal immigrants and said he hopes that Jerry W. Kilgore will be in the governor's mansion next year to sign those bills into law.
Albo, who has served as the Republican gubernatorial candidate's wingman on illegal immigration issues throughout the campaign, is bubbling over with ideas. His legislation would tighten citizenship checks for voters, allow police to detain illegal immigrants charged with certain crimes and ban publicly funded day-laborer centers that serve some illegal immigrants.
He said he believes he will have a strong ally if Kilgore is elected Nov. 8.
"I think what Jerry will do will be to try and make the number one goal not hurting legal immigrants," Albo said. "Then we look at ways we can start taking away some of the benefits of illegal aliens who come to Virginia. I'm sure the word is out in Mexico right now that there's a site in Herndon where you can show up and they'll pay you cash, and nobody checks to see if you're a citizen."
Albo's ambitious plans underline the extent to which the issue of illegal immigration has entered Virginia campaign politics as never before. The change became evident with Kilgore's decision last month to highlight his opposition to a day-laborer center in Herndon.
Kilgore's position was roundly criticized in some quarters -- Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), an independent candidate for governor, called it the "worst form of demagoguery." But it made clear that the issue could play a key role in the campaign.
Democratic candidate Timothy M. Kaine, a fluent Spanish speaker, has been relatively quiet on the matter. The lieutenant governor has said that like Kilgore, he opposes illegal immigration, but he said the federal government, not state or local government, is responsible for enforcing immigration laws.
"I call on the federal government to do their job and enforce these laws," Kaine said. "It's not fair to put the burden on state and local governments."
Kaine called the dispute over the day-laborer center a local matter for Herndon.
During a Sept. 13 gubernatorial debate, he characterized Kilgore's approach as a "mean-spirited effort to go after people who are trying to make a living and to go after local officials who are trying to deal with a tough problem."
Some Democrats said they hope a Kaine victory might help counter what they characterize as an anti-immigrant trend in the General Assembly, though none of the bills that became law in recent years targets legal immigrants. The assembly has passed laws that require people seeking driver's licenses to prove they are legal residents and limit illegal immigrants' access to Medicaid and other public benefits.
"There's no question that if Kilgore is elected, this will be a state where immigrants are not welcome," said Walter Tejada (D), an Arlington County Board member who chairs Gov. Mark R. Warner's Virginia Latino Advisory Commission. "The Republicans have already had some success with this, but with Kilgore as governor, it will get worse.