Fenty Won’t Question Residents’ Legal Status

Gary Emerling, Washington Times, October 25, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday said people seeking help or services from city officials should not be required to prove they are legal U.S. residents.

“It is our job to provide services, not to ask questions about legal status,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat.

The mayor’s stance is a departure from ones taken recently in surrounding jurisdictions, such as Prince William County, where supervisors last week voted to restrict illegal aliens from access to some taxpayer-funded programs and banned county officials from granting business licenses to persons who cannot prove their legal status.

Loudoun County in July also adopted resolutions favoring local enforcement of immigration laws. Several other Virginia jurisdictions have passed or considered immigration-related resolutions, including Chesterfield, Culpeper, James City, Page, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the city of Manassas.

The District, however, has taken a stance similar to that of Alexandria, which has passed a resolution clarifying that officials will not question the citizenship of people seeking city services unless required to do so by state or federal law.

Arlington County passed a similar measure, and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett said this month that Maryland leaders are more “enlightened” than those in Virginia who are not willing to spend taxpayer money on illegal aliens.

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“Every resident in the District of Columbia has a right to high-quality customer service,” Mr. Fenty said. “All constituents are welcome and encouraged to seek out the District government, regardless of the language they speak.”

The Language Access Act was passed by the council and signed into law by former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, in 2004.

City officials have estimated that the translation services would cost $440,000 per year. They said yesterday they plan to distribute colored placards corresponding to six different languages: Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The placards will be sent to D.C. neighborhoods, schools and community centers that contain a high concentration of immigrants. They notify residents of their rights under the bill and contain perforated “I speak” cards that persons can use to communicate what language they speak to city officials.

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