Hilary Lewis, culpeppercitizen.com, Nov. 21, 2006
You may contact Hilary Lewis at 825-9882 or e-mail [email protected]
The room was filled and tensions were high last Tuesday, Nov 14, at the Town Council meeting.
More than 15 town residents stood to address the Council about their concerns on the issue that has been plaguing the town for months, illegal immigration.
Led by Councilman Steve Jenkins, whose recent initiatives regarding the issue have been repeatedly rejected, a number of citizens spoke in support of the Councilman’s newest proposal to create an illegal immigration task force and demanded the town do more.
Jerry Beckett, a town resident and frequent speaker at the meetings, started the heated debate.
“Not only are they illegal,” he said. “But they have the gall to be marching the streets of America under the Mexican flag and make demands for services that they have no rights to.” He then suggested that the Council establish English as the official language of Culpeper.
Beckett’s speech was followed by a round of applause and Mayor Pranas Rimeikis urged the crowd to control emotional outbursts.
Continuing the debate, Keith Price, a town resident, spoke and urged the council to put in place Jenkins’ task force to examine the impact of immigration on the town.
“I think it is appropriate and necessary for Council to propose a solution for the good of the community from local evidence. The task force will find the problems and help determine the actions that we need to take,” he said.
John Clatterbuck, on the other hand, thanked Jenkins for his initiative with the immigration issue.
“I think he is the only one that has addressed this problem. And I resent the implications that this is a racist issue.”
His statement was followed by another outburst from the meeting’s crowd.
Standing up as one of the only Hispanic faces in a sea of concerned and angry white faces, Ricardo Juarez addressed the immigration issue next.
Juarez is representative from Mexicanos Sin Fronteras or Mexicans Without Borders, a non-profit organization dedicated to defend and promote human rights for Latino immigrants.
“We support the idea of a task force, we think it is a great idea,” he said. He urged the Council to consider this idea because the town needs “humanistic resolutions”.
Jenkins’ motion was seconded by Councilman Chris Snider and then discussed by the council.
“We have heard from the citizens, we have heard constantly from the citizens,” said Jenkins, addressing the fact that the Council has not agreed with his past initiatives. “This is almost like trying to put out a brush fire by blowing on it.”
The Council rejected Jenkins’ motion by a vote of 6-2, and decided to follow the recommendation of the mayor and discuss the issue at another meeting, which has not been set.