Illegal Immigration at the Forefront

Annie Gowen, Washington Post, Sept. 30

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.

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“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.

“They say [the trend] doesn’t include legal immigrants, but that is the mask they like to put on it. Of course it does. This whole sentiment affects how people view immigrants.”

Kilgore has said that public funding to support illegal immigrants undermines the rule of law and denigrates residents who immigrated to the country legally.

Virginia is struggling with cultural changes brought on by a rise in legal and illegal immigration over the past decade.

The state is home to more than 200,000 illegal immigrants, up 50,000 from 1996, according to a study for the Pew Hispanic Center. The number of Virginians born outside the United States has grown from 311,809 in 1990 to 570,279 in 2000, according to the census.

A Washington Post poll taken Sept. 6 through Sept.9 showed that in Virginia, 33 percent of registered voters think “the growing number of immigrants” has been bad for their communities, compared with 21 percent who believe it is good.

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