Cracking down on illegal immigration at the local level is a growing movement nationwide, and Culpeper - though not quite leading the way - remains in the mix. Locally, the debate took a break over the holidays, but now it’s revving up again. This time, Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, is weighing in.
In a Dec. 21 letter to Town Manager Brannon Godfrey, Warner acknowledged the recent receipt of petitions signed by more than 225 Culpeper residents supporting immigration enforcement by local police and elected officials.
“I value the thoughts of the Culpeper Town Council regarding immigration policy,” he said.
Warner, 79, went on to list the steps Congress has taken and will take in the coming year to combat the problem. His letter, however, did not mention anything about immigration reform or assistance happening locally, unlike the one in September from Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Richmond.
“Illegal immigration is a national crisis that must be addressed at all levels of government,” Cantor said in a letter to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors.
According to Warner, the first and most important step is securing the nation’s borders.
Congress passed the Secure Fence Act in September, he said, which will result in stepped-up enforcement on the U.S. border with Mexico. Specifically, the Act will add 3,700 border control agents, another 1,300 “detention personnel” and an additional 370 miles of fence.
As for the “other legislation” related to immigration reform, Congress did not complete its work on the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” before it adjourned last month, Warner said.
Still, during last year’s session Warner reiterated his stance that immigration reform starts with secure borders, “and then (we) deal, realistically, with the millions of undocumented workers who are already in our country,” he said.
Warner further mentioned, “concerns regarding access to Social Security and other benefit eligibility” for undocumented residents and a provision of the Act in which immigrants living in the U.S. for five or more years would first pay $2,750 “in fines and fees” before achieving citizenship.
“Requirements for those who had resided in the U.S. for two to four years would be similar, but only if these individuals first returned to their home countries and applied for entry through legal procedures,” Warner said in the letter.
In closing, the senator said he would “be certain to keep your views and those of the citizens of Culpeper in mind” as Congress moves forward with border security and immigration issues.
Locally, the issue is still very much on the mind of Town Councilman Steve Jenkins, who has led the charge since he took office in July for immigration enforcement in Culpeper.
Though his proposals - including fining landlords and employees for doing business with undocumented residents - have received little support from the other eight members of council, Jenkins remains undeterred.
His latest proposal to form an immigration task force will come before Town Council at its retreat Jan. 29 at 8:30 a.m. in the DSS boardroom - upstairs at 219 E. Davis St.
The task force, if approved, would “look more in depth at the impacts of undocumented immigrants on our community,” Jenkins said, “and what we can and cannot do in regards to our ordinances.”
He also wants English to be declared the official language of Culpeper.
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