By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 3, 2007
A regional group of Latino business leaders is launching a television advertising campaign this weekend in hopes of countering anti-illegal-immigrant measures they fear will spread throughout Virginia.
The centerpiece is an ad that claims to show what happened when Riverside, N.J., passed a resolution penalizing employers who had hired illegal immigrants. Images of empty buildings and signs of shop liquidations and closures flash across the screen. The ad explains that Riverside rescinded its measure one year later.
"The moral: Virginia, let's be careful what we wish for," a narrator warns.
The ads are scheduled to air throughout Virginia on CNN several times over the weekend and on Tuesday, when the state is scheduled to hold elections.
In buying the commercial time, the business group, Ayuda Business Coalition, is taking a decidedly different approach in its fight against recent crackdowns on illegal immigrants than other groups, which have organized work boycotts and demonstrations.
"We want to do this in an organized way that doesn't expose us to look like we aren't respectable or disciplined," said Mariano Claudio, a coalition member.
Coalition members fear the recent passage of an anti-illegal-immigration resolution in Prince William County has created momentum for state legislators to introduce similar measures in the General Assembly when it convenes in January. Prince William lawmakers limited some social services to illegal immigrants and stepped up enforcement efforts against those who have been convicted of crimes.
"Some call what happened in Prince William a success. Our longer-term goal is to start building effective arguments for what we know is a fight coming in Richmond," said Mauricio Vivero, executive director of District-based immigrant advocacy group Ayuda, which is running the project.
The Ayuda Business Coalition encompasses about 100 business leaders and includes the head of the Salvadoran American Chamber of Commerce and Carlos Castro, the owner of Todos Market. The group said it has raised $100,000 for lobbying and media advertising. Sosa and Associates, a Latino-owned public relations firm, produced the TV commercial for free.
The Republican Party of Virginia has proposed a five-part plan for dealing with the issue that includes proposals for targeting criminal activity by illegal immigrants and for punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants, according to John Hager, the state's GOP chairman.
Already, some candidates have made enforcement of immigration laws a centerpiece of their campaigns. Jackson Hunter Miller, a Republican delegate who represents District 50, which includes parts of Prince William County, has sponsored several bills. One would cut state and local funding to charities and other organizations that provide services to undocumented immigrants. He vows to sponsor additional measures that would allow the deportation of illegal immigrants charged with crimes and penalize businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Miller is running against Democrat Jeanette M. Rishell, who has also has called for action. "Because our federal government has failed in its responsibility to address illegal immigration, the states must now find solutions that are long-lasting and legal," Rishell said.
"Things are different this year in that Republicans and Democrats are both running on platforms that address illegal immigration," Miller said.