Stafford wants immigration task force
August 22, 2007 12:35 am

Stafford County has joined the growing list of Virginia localities tackling illegal immigration.

During its meeting last night, the Board of Supervisors proposed creating a task force that would evaluate the effects of undocumented aliens in Stafford. Supervisors also passed a resolution declaring English as the county's official language.

When Prince William County recently denied services to illegal immigrants, some Stafford supervisors said they were inundated with phone calls from their constituents. The constituents were concerned that Prince William's undocumented aliens would eventually migrate south to Stafford.

"I, under no circumstances, believe we should deny services to anyone in need," said Garrisonville District Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer, who first proposed the task force. "But, don't encourage people to come here, too."

Dudenhefer said the task force will help identify the problems often associated with illegal immigration, such as a greater demand on health and human services.

However, anyone who applies for assistance through the county's social services department must prove legal residency or citizenship. Undocumented aliens can qualify for a hospital stay through Medicaid.

The only other county agency that can serve illegal immigrants is the Comprehensive Services Act, which works with at-risk children. But in almost eight years, the department assisted one undocumented youth, according to CSA staff.

Supervisors want the task force to include representation from the county, school board, law enforcement and minority communities.

The board passed the task force proposal in a 6-1 vote. Officials think it could be the first step toward identifying illegal immigration problems.

"At least, in my opinion, it's a fair proposal," said Falmouth District Supervisor George Schwartz. "We have no data, no facts or figures. We don't know what's going on."

"We're going to investigate this matter," added Board Chairman Jack Cavalier. "I think Mark's suggestion to form a task force is probably the right way to go."

George Washington District Supervisor Pete Fields voted against the creation of a task force, arguing it could stigmatize some residents.

"The end result can't help but result in the classification of certain people living in this county, separate of other people as a whole," he noted. "I can't support that."

The board voted 4-1 to declare English as the county's official language. Dudenhefer and Schwartz abstained from voting.

Although he voted for the resolution, Cavalier argued it was redundant because English is already the state's official language. "It just seems like we're adopting the U.S. flag as red, white and blue. "I don't see the value."

Fields, who cast the dissenting vote, said the resolution "is an empty gesture and a little bit aggressive against a segment of our community."

Regardless of the proposal outcomes, supervisors said it was time for them to act on illegal immigration. "The perception is that by us not doing anything, we're going to accept what's happened to us," Dudenhefer said.

By delaying action "we may be sending a signal that we're okay with an influx of illegal aliens," added Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde.

Earlier this month, Culpeper County passed a similar resolution declaring English as its official language. And last week, Spotsylvania County supervisors requested data on the number of illegal immigrants in the locality. ... 007/310744