Manassas Journal Messenger | Council writing to Warner

Virginia’s governor will be hearing from Manassas’ elected city officials soon — or at least reading what they have to say.

At its Monday night meeting, the Manassas City Council approved sending a letter to Gov. Mark R. Warner requesting that he declare a state of emergency on illegal immigration. The City Council tapped Councilman Jackson Miller, who proposed the move, to draft the letter two weeks ago.

“Unchecked illegal immigration on the national level is causing pressing fiscal issues and declining quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Miller wrote in a letter to Warner that will be signed by Mayor Douglas Waldron, who was absent from Monday’s meeting.

The controversial issue spurred a lengthy discussion at Monday’s meeting, with City Council members saying constituents were concerned about illegal immigration’s financial impact on health care, schools and emergency services.

The issue of declaring a state of emergency on illegal immigration has come to the forefront in recent weeks as the governors of New Mexico and Arizona have done so, earmarking a total of $3.25 million in state funds to combat illegal immigration in their counties that border Mexico.

Virginia Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-Woodbridge, and Delegate David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, have asked Warner to make such a declaration in Virginia.

Warner has no plans to do so, according to a letter he wrote in response to Frederick last week. Stating that the federal government has done a poor job of securing the borders, Warner wrote that he had called on Virginia’s congressional delegation to enforce existing immigration laws and increase funding for those purposes.

Frederick and Miller dispute Warner’s argument that a state of emergency declaration would not provide federal funding to states.

Some reports that Arizona has applied for federal funding are misleading, according to Jeanine L’Ecuyer, a spokeswoman in Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office.

“We have simply filed an extension for the length of time in which we could file for a federal disaster,” said L’Ecuyer, who said no response had been received as of Monday evening.

Usually, federal declaration requests must be made 30 days after a state’s declaration of a state of emergency. Arizona has requested 60 days from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said L’Ecuyer, who said part of the issue is determining what is defined as a federal emergency.

Calls to New Mexico’s press office were not returned as of Monday evening.

The issue of defining an emergency was broached at Monday night’s City Council meeting, when Councilwoman Judith Hays said she was outraged about the city’s limited authority to restrict housing overcrowding but said the council should be careful not to trivialize dangerous emergencies, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Hays and Councilman Steven Smith voted against sending the state of emergency request to Warner, although Hays did make a motion for City Attorney Robert Bendall to draft a letter to the governor and the congressional delegation asking for stronger enforcement of housing codes and outlining the financial impact of illegal immigration on the city.

The City Council approved that motion and asked that the letter be presented at its Oct. 17 meeting.

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