Now that the General Assembly has convened, legislators should reach across the aisle to tackle Virginias surging problems springing from illegal immigration.
Political opportunism and political correctness impel too many senators and delegates to apply a double standard: citizens are expected to abide by all statutes; illegal residents can pick and choose the laws they obey.
Now a broad coalition of businesses has launched Virginia Employers for Sensible Immigration Policy to protect illegal immigrants and the firms that hire them. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will truckle to these special interests or stand up for law-abiding residents.
The federal government, including the Congress, has been slow to recognize the grassroots outcry against the porosity of our border with Mexicosometimes compared with a sieve blasted by buckshotas well as the soaring number of foreigners who enter the U.S. with valid visas only to melt into population and neglect to return home. In capitulating to special pleaders, Capitol Hill denizens seldom mention that the U.S. has one of the most liberal immigration laws in the world for men and women who play by the rules.
Washingtons weak-kneed response to illegal immigration must not prevent the Old Dominion from acting. There are initiatives, some already underway, that should be embraced on a bipartisan basis:
- Make it a crime and/or stiffen penalties for those who engage in (1) alien smuggling, (2) document fraud, and (3) gang-related crimes;
- Employ Dillon Rule-authority (state control over localities) to ban sanctuary cities/towns/counties that roll out the red carpet for illegal immigrants;
- Turn thumbs-down on in-state tuition to unlawful aliens (veterans, police officers, fire fighters, the disabled and their children do not enjoy this benefit);
- Impound the automobiles of unlicensed drivers until they can show a valid drivers permit and registration document;
- Furnish information to the all police and sheriffs departments about the Law Enforcement Support Center, operated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Authority 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (1-866-347-2423), that can supply specific information about properly handling aliens suspected, arrested or convicted of criminal activity;
- Require all public agencies and their contractors to use the free E-Verify Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security thatin concert with the Social Security Administrationchecks the authenticity of Social Security numbers presented by prospective employees;
- Direct all public agencies and their contractors to use the SSNUS systema free service to enable employers to match Social Security numbers with W-2 forms and SSA data bases;
- Offer incentives to private firms to participate in E-Verify and SSNUS, while ascertaining that all business-license holders take part in this program;
- Require school systems determine the number of illegal immigrants in classrooms so that if Washington begins to reimburse states for assuming this educational burden, Virginias officials will have hard data to present. Now jurisdictions like Fairfax Country claim ignorance of the full cost of illegal aliens to their citizens, even as they refuse to ascertain the number of such youngsters in their classrooms; and
- Take advantage of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program (SAVE) to verify the Social Security numbers of all recipients of state social services, andwhen the head of a household is found to be illegalpro-rate benefits to make certain that he or she does not benefit from breaking the law.
Even as U.S. senators and representatives suck their thumbs, we must take decisive action. Otherwise our state will become an ever-more attractive and enticing destination for individuals who sneak across the border or overstay their visasa situation that fills emergency rooms, overcrowds schools, spurs the formation of more gangs, inflicts greater pressure on our natural resources, exacerbates traffic congestion, inexorably drives up property taxes, and generally degrades the quality of life.
Democrats and Republicans should lay aside partisan concerns for the good of our citizens even if it means standing up to well-funded lobbyists. After all, these legislators swear an oath to the same Constitution that buttresses Americans commitment to adhering to the rule of law.
George W. Grayson, who teaches at the College of William & Mary, served 27 years in the Virginia Legislature.