The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Day labor furor hits campaigns; B2

Candidates divided on Fairfax proposal to fund centers for immigrants

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Immigration is more often than not an issue for federal officials. But a controversy in Northern Virginia has brought it squarely into the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The issue centers on a convenience store in Herndon, where day laborers gather and wait to be hired by construction companies. A number of the workers are alleged to be illegal immigrants.

Officials in Fairfax County have proposed providing funding for day labor centers elsewhere to keep workers from gathering in front of the store. That’s a bad idea, according to Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore.

“I don’t think it is too much to ask that people obey the laws of our society before they take advantage of what our society has to offer,” Kilgore said. “To reward illegal behavior is to encourage that behavior and it demeans those who have followed the rules to come to America legally.”

Speaking on a recent conference call with Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield, Kilgore said Fairfax’s proposal would become illegal in 2006 under a law Albo successfully sponsored this year. It bars illegal immigrants from receiving certain types of public assistance.

Albo said the centers are a bad idea, unless they do some kind of screening to be sure everyone there is legally present in the United States.

Kilgore also has endorsed legislation that would allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants who are arrested while their legal presence is verified. Similar federal legislation filed in 2003 never came up for a vote.

The statement prompted independent gubernatorial candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, to unload on Kilgore.

“Mr. Kilgore’s statements are his latest attempt at playing the worst kind of politics — the politics of fear. His policy clearly aims at dividing Virginians along racial boundaries,” Potts says in an e-mail to reporters.

The “Commonwealth of Opportunity” Kilgore has said he hopes to create should be “open to all, not just a select few,” Potts wrote. Everyone should have the opportunity to improve their lot in life, just like he did.

“Mr. Kilgore’s attempts at division are not only morally wrong, but also violate the spirit of federal law and the rights of local governments to regulate local activities without interference from the state,” Potts said.

The Republican nominee also proposed giving police new powers to hold illegal immigrants and turn them over to federal officials if they’re arrested for virtually any offense.

But immigration enforcement is a federal problem, Potts said.

“For a self-described tax cutter, Kilgore is very quick to throw state and local law enforcement dollars and manpower at what is clearly a federal agency problem,” Potts said.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tim Kaine said through a spokesperson that the Kilgore proposal would harm small businesses in the area, which often depend on day laborers.

Both Fairfax County officials and immigration advocates criticized Kilgore’s stance.

Election Day is Nov. 8.