Manassas Journal Messenger | Letter details city’s immigration woes

The Manassas City Council is again expressing its views on illegal immigration in the form of a letter to the governor. This time the letter is laying out specific issues and supported remedies to those issues.

“Based upon the city’s local law and code enforcement experiences, it is the city’s belief that a significant contributor to this increased demand on public services and the resulting overcrowding is the result of the presence of large numbers of undocumented or illegal aliens,” city attorney Robert W. Bendall wrote in his draft of a letter that will be sent to Gov. Mark R. Warner, Sen. George Allen, Congressman Frank R. Wolf and other elected officials.

The City Council will vote on a final draft of the letter at its Oct. 31 meeting.

City Council members said they hope Bendall’s letter and one they sent to Warner last month will spur other Virginia localities to follow suit, prompting state and federal legislators to enact and enforce stricter immigration laws.

“Let’s be clear that we don’t have the final say here,” City Councilman J. Steven Randolph said at a Wednesday night meeting. “The concept is what’s important.”

Bendall’s letter is based largely on legislation that was introduced by Congressman J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., last month that would create stricter penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, create a new social security card with photos of cardholders and eliminate appeals of visa revocations. It would also set aside federal funding to train local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

The legislation would add 700,000 of the nation’s existing law enforcement officials to enforce immigration laws at the local level, Bendall said.

With 84 police officers, Manassas’ police department would not have the manpower to process illegal immigration detainees, said Police Chief John J. Skinner, who added that he was unsure how quickly the federal government would assume custody of such individuals after their detainment by local officers.

“We need to move quickly but very cautiously to ensure that a comprehensive integrated immigration policy is forged,” Skinner said.

Between 200,000 and 250,000 illegal immigrants were estimated to be in Virginia from 2002 to 2004, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Constituents are complaining about illegal immigration’s impact on overcrowding in neighborhoods and schools, gang activity and the burden on public services, Manassas officials say. Those complaints prompted the City Council to follow the lead of Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-Woodbridge, and Delegate David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, who asked Warner declare a state of emergency on illegal immigration last summer.

Late last month, the City Council sent a letter to Warner requesting that he declare a state of emergency, as governors in Arizona and New Mexico did in August when they earmarked a total of $3.25 million to combat illegal immigration in their counties that border Mexico.

Warner made it clear last month that he had no intention of declaring a state of emergency in Virginia, saying that Virginia didn’t border a foreign country, nor would declaring a state of emergency bring about more federal funding.

Warner did say that he would urge federal leaders to fulfill their responsibility to enforce immigration laws.

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