The majority of the Manassas City Council would like to adopt a tougher illegal immigration policy.
Now it’s just a wait-and-see approach as Prince William County finishes its study on potentially denying services to the illegal immigrant community. In July, the Board of County Supervisors passed a resolution which directed staff to look into what services it could deny illegal immigrants.
This week, Manassas councilman Marc Aveni spoke out on the issue, saying he would like to piggyback the county’s policy and adopt a similar resolution in the city. Aveni, a Republican, said it only makes sense because the county and city border each other and already share some services, like the library system.
The city has also joined with the Prince William County police department, Manassas Park and the Prince William County Sheriff’s office in an effort to obtain Immigration and Customs Enforcement training through the 287(g) program. That program was put into place to help localities effectively deal with and ultimately, deport criminal illegal immigrants.
“If Prince William County’s resolution passes the reasonable test and the legality test, tell me why we shouldn’t do it,” Aveni said.
Councilman Jonathan Way agreed, saying he doesn’t want the city to be perceived as a haven for illegals. However, he said he doesn’t want the opposite extreme either where the city could be potentially despised for its attitude towards the immigrant community.
“It’s good to have consistent regulations and consistent laws throughout the city,” Way said. “[We need to have] consistent zoning practices, consistent treatment of illegal aliens because it would be too easy for a small place [like us] to become a haven or an anathema and we wish to be neither.”
Help Save Manassas president Greg Letiecq commended Aveni – an HSM member – for coming up with the proposal.
“With so many shared services that cross jurisdictional boundaries, this addressing of a potential problem before it lands on the city’s doorstep demonstrates considerable foresight on the part of Councilman Aveni,” Letiecq wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday.
Councilman Andrew Harrover said that while many people are upset over the immigration issue, the city is hamstrung to an extent. What he calls the “big ticket items,” such as education and healthcare, local governments can do next to nothing because of federal mandates.
While Harrover said he would support a limiting of city services to the illegal population and that it might send a good message to them, he also wondered how much good it would do in reality.
“Would it chase illegals out of town, no, not by itself,” Harrover said. “There isn’t anything that will single-handedly make that happen. It has to be a cumulative effect, unless of course the federal government decides to do something.”
Manassas also has to consider its role in the current Department of Justice investigation into a now-defunct ordinance that defined families, said Councilman Steven Randolph.
The definition limited the term “family” to include immediate family, grandparents, grandchildren and one non-related person. However, many people felt that this ordinance, passed in 2005, was targeting those in the Hispanic community and it was quickly thrown out of the books.
If the county resolution is adopted in practice, Harrover said the city’s first step should be passing a resolution directing its own staff to look into the situation to see what is even possible. The county supervisors are scheduled to view the staff’s findings by October and then introduce an ordinance if necessary.
“I would support [a resolution] but it would have to be narrowly defined and something clearly legal,” Harrover said.