Immigration Takes Stage

Edie Gross, The Free-Lance Star (Fredricksburg, Va.), Dec. 8, 2006

Since establishing the first Minuteman Civil Defense Corps outside a U.S. border state, George Taplin has gotten used to being called a racist.

Taplin, whose group lobbied last year against a taxpayer-supported day-labor site in Herndon, as well as the town council members who supported it, told three dozen citizens in Culpeper last night that he’s not bothered by the name-calling, and he’s not a racist.

“I’m against illegal Greeks, illegal Russians, illegal Muslims, illegal Italians,” he said during a talk at VFW Post 2524. “What am I against? I’m against illegal aliens—anybody who’s an illegal alien.

“We don’t need racism. Racism only causes problems,” he continued. “But it’s not about racism. This is about the law. This is about our culture. This is about respect.”

Taplin, a Herndon resident, said he was invited to Culpeper by citizens concerned about the impact of illegal immigration on the community. Residents have complained in recent months about overcrowding in single-family homes and accompanying problems with parking, trash and declining property values.

Minuteman groups in western states have focused primarily on monitoring illegal crossings at the Mexican border, and much of the debate about illegal immigration has centered on the federal government’s responsibility.

The Virginia organization, however, wants to educate citizens and government officials about what they can do at the local level, Taplin said.

“We’re going to use this town hall-style meeting and educate people on what’s going on around the country and what they can do in their locality to alleviate the results of poor immigration policies,” he said.

Joining Taplin were Sandra Gunn, eastern field representative with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), who addressed upcoming state legislation aimed at illegal immigration, and Bill Campenni, a Herndon member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps who talked about a program that gives extra enforcement powers to local police.

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Campenni urged local police departments to sign up for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that trains police officers on immigration law and gives them more enforcement tools.

Taplin said citizens should report businesses they suspect of hiring illegal immigrants and toss out public officials who don’t address the ill effects of illegal immigration.

Culpeper Town Council member Steve Jenkins attended last night’s meeting, telling the group that his constituents have been frustrated by the influx of illegal immigrants into the community. Jenkins recently asked council members to establish a task force to study the impact, something they declined to do at the time. But Jenkins said he expects the topic to be brought up again at a later meeting.

“Those on the Town Council have done nothing but turn a deaf ear to citizens who’ve said loudly, ‘We want this addressed,’” Jenkins said. “I’ve gone on record saying I will not tolerate illegal immigrants in my community.”

The Rev. Habacuc Diaz Lopez, pastor at Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha in Culpeper who also attended the meeting, said he felt the group was unfairly targeting Hispanics. He also said he worried that prosecuting those who help illegal immigrants could have negative consequences.

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Taplin responded that feeding or clothing an illegal immigrant would not be against the law. But hiring or housing one should be.

“Being a good Samaritan and aiding and abetting, there’s not a fine line there,” he said. “There’s a clear demarcation.”

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