Friday, March 14, 2008

Immigration Advocates Saw a Bad Session

“Cool heads on both sides” won some in the legislature. --Andres Tobar, the president of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations.

Although a statement from a statewide immigrant rights group said nothing positive came from this year’s General Assembly session, the outcome could have been worse for immigrants in Virginia had legislators passed many of the 100-plus immigration-related bills during the 2008 legislative session, admitted Andres Tobar, the president of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations. VACOLAO is an umbrella group that organizes many local and state groups.

“Cool heads on both sides,” especially in the party leadership, won in Richmond, he said in an interview. In a press release, he cited senators Richard Saslaw, the Senate majority leader (D-35, Fairfax County), and Emmett Hanger Jr. (R-24, Mt. Solon, near Staunton) as deserving particular praise.

Sen. Hanger offered a bill that would have allowed students whose families are in the process of becoming legal aliens or citizens, who have lived in Virginia for at least three years, and who have been paying taxes, to go to state colleges paying in-state tuition. It failed after a lot of wrangling, according to the Assembly’s web site.

Leni Gonzalez, another activist with VACOLAO, said in an interview, “We have had some success,” during this session. She said that students without full documentation can still go to college, but they pay out-of-state-tuition, about $19,000 per year for full-time undergraduate students at George Mason University.

“The House’s determination to punish children for the acts of their parents can only yield increased drop outs and enhanced gang recruitment,” Mr. Tobar said in a press release. In the interview, he called students unable to continue an education a “tremendous loss of talent.”

This sentiment was echoed by Walter Tejada, the Arlington County Board president who had travelled with Mr. Tobar, Ms. Gonzalez and others to Richmond on Jan. 15 for “Lobby Day.” Leaders, students and others spoke to legislators then to curry support.

“The General Assembly, yet again, held another mean-spirited show,” Mr. Tejada said in an interview today. He lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Republicans, especially those in the House of Delegates who voted against a bill the Senate unanimously supported. The bill would have made it illegal for law enforcement officials to ask a victim about his or her immigration status. Now victims of crime can be “victimized twice,” Mr. Tejada said.

One of the many bills that did not pass, however, was a bill creating “a division of legal presence investigation and enforcement within the Department of State Police.”

Introduced by Del. Paul Nichols (D-51, Woodbridge) the bill would have established a new 100 officer State Police division to “conduct investigations related to the failure by individuals to provide evidence or proof of legal presence in the Commonwealth when required by law.” The division would work with United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Although many bills that would have cracked down on illegal immigration did not pass, Mr. Tejada said he was not willing to look favorably on the session. Although the bills were struck down, it was an awful lot of bills to strike, he said. On top of that, the number of bills just shows that Virginia really is not open to immigration, he said. Work needs to be done to find them new jobs come November, he said.

Ms. Gonzalez is not ready to determine how good this year’s session was, either.

“We can make an assessment after April 2 or 3, when they reconvene,” she said. “Probably by the end of April we’ll be able to say was it good or bad.”

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Looks like Virginia missed the worst of the speeding immigrant bullets. Out here in Kansas, the legislature stepped back from the more Draconian bills. They watered down the punishments for businesses that might hire "illegals," and for once I breathed a sigh of relief along with the state Chamber of Commerce.

AND I am proud to say, children of immigrants will continue to pay in-state tuition at state universities. Twice the top-heavy Republican legislature has rejected attempts to roll back this attempt to, as you say, punish children. I think there are over 200 students attending universities under this provision.

Alas, some of the failed immigration bills represented good ideas. Democrats who try attract the votes of immigrants managed to stop some of the best. Of course, many immigrants want their relatives to stay in the U.S., even if they entered illegally. It is irrelevant to them and to the Democrats that the illegals take jobs and benefits that legal immigrants might otherwise utilize.

In Arlington, illegal immigrants can obtain County-subsidized "affordable housing", with no questions asked. As Arlington has a shortage of affordable housing, this means that some legal immigrants (even those that are U.S. citizens) are left out and must leave the County.

As long as Democrats control Arlington's government and have a large influence in the state legislature, this miserable situation will persist. Everyone loses, except the illegals.

The Commonwealth of Virginia certain should not permit illegal immigrants to enroll in its universities as residents. As some of these universities are selective, the illegals take spaces that legals would otherwise occupy.

The illegals can obtain a good university education in their native countries. Most of these have national universities that charge little for tuition. Alternatively, the illegals can return to their native lands and take their place in line to legally enter the U.S. if they wish to enroll as state residents in taxpayer supported colleges and universities in the U.S.

Democrats don't care about any of this. They just want the immigrants' votes. It is unfortunate that many legal immigrants who have become U.S. citizends do not recognize the real consequences of the votes that they cast for Democrats. They are the real losers.

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