Sunday, September 16, 2007

Supervisors say feds, not Fauquier, should enforce immigration laws.

Let Prince William, Loudoun and Culpeper mull local measures to rid their counties of illegal Hispanic immigrants, Fauquier officials say.
"We don't think we need to go there," said Fauquier Supervisor Chester Stribling

For one thing, the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws belongs to the federal government, Stribling stressed.

"There are already federal laws in place" to address illegal immigration concerns, he said. "Why do we continue to make new laws, new rules, new regulations. It's a typical government response to a problem."

As a practical matter, Stribling questions whether the application of local laws aimed at determining a person's immigration status would withstand courtroom challenges.

"I'm not sure they're going to stand" such tests, he concluded.
Immigrant issues don't preoccupy Fauquier, as they do more populous and suburban communities, because Hispanics represent a relatively small percentage of the county's population, Stribling suggested.

The U.S. Census for 2000 reported Fauquier's Hispanic population at 1,114, or two percent of the county's population.

No more recent census data on Fauquier's Hispanic population exist, county planner Kristen Slawter said.

Immigrants, more numerous and in some ways more visible than in Fauquier, also have created tension in Northern Virginia communities, Stribling said.

"We don't have the same problems with day laborers that Northern Virginia has," he said, referring to the dispute over the day laborer center in Herndon.
Stribling said he's received very few complaints about Hispanics from his constituents.

He described them as "generalized" and "minor in scope."

Fauquier Board of Supervisors Chairman Harry Atherton (Marshall District) steered clear of ascribing "motives" to local governments that consider or attempt to use local authority to crack down on illegal immigrants.But he finds the notion of it distasteful.

"I think it sends an anti-immigrant message," Atherton said. "I would be reluctant to send a message that immigrants are unwelcome" in Fauquier.
As a practical matter, local economy depends on Hispanics to function effectively, he said.
Atherton called them an "essential element of the Fauquier County workforce," specifically the agricultural, construction, lawn-care and food-service sectors.

Like Stribling, he thinks local law to crack down on illegal immigrants may be legally untenable.

"I don't see any point in doing this," Atherton said.
Fauquier has overcrowding of homes that may involve Hispanics, the Marshall supervisor said.
But he views them as a zoning enforcement matters, not issues that should be addressed as "immigration status" issues.

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