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County approves resolution on immigration

A group will work with the state on plan to deal with costs of illegal immigrants

By Wesley Young

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution last night asking the county’s legislative delegation to pursue a statewide plan to deal with the financial burden on counties because of illegal immigration.

The commissioners’ latest foray into the immigration debate came less than a month after the county board turned down Commissioner Beaufort Bailey’s request to form a 13-member committee to take a closer look at how much illegal immigration is costing the county.

The resolution passed by the board says that county officials know that they have little influence and no authority over the laws regarding illegal immigration, and it appeals for state legislators to take action.

“We want to make our state and federal representatives aware that we hear from our citizens” on illegal immigration, Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt, the board’s chairwoman, said before the meeting. “We need to keep reminding them and emphasize the fact that we need some relief. We need some laws that can be enforced.”

But Bailey was skeptical of the resolution. He cast the only vote against it last night.

“After they killed my committee, they came up with this resolution trying to say something about it,” Bailey had said earlier. “I don’t think very much of it. It is just a farce to fool the people in Forsyth County like we are trying to do something about it. I don’t think it is worth the paper it is written on.”

The county board fractured across party lines when the board voted informally 4-3 on March 20 to drop Bailey’s idea for a committee.

In favor of the committee were Bailey and Walter Marshall, both Democrats, and Republican Debra Conrad. Opposed were Republicans Whisenhunt, Bill Whiteheart and Richard Linville, along with Democrat Ted Kaplan.

Linville said he wasn’t sure that Bailey’s committee could have found statistics better than the ones put together earlier by Joe Bartel, the county budget director. Bartel estimated that the county spends about $11.2 million each year on services for illegal immigrants.

Although the accuracy of the study was criticized, Linville said that a new committee would cover the same ground.

Linville said that state officials might not be able to do much about illegal immigration either, but would at least get support for efforts at the federal level by the county’s new resolution.

The resolution cites the cost of caring for juveniles in custody as one of the financial risks the county faces because of illegal immigration. The resolution says that the state is in a better position than counties to help counties.

Conrad said that the federal government hasn’t shown any sign of acting on illegal immigration, either.

Whisenhunt said that the resolution isn’t the end of the board’s efforts. She said that the commissioners want to meet with the county’s delegation in the General Assembly and press forward with pleas for action.

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