Immigration Commission hears from Harrisonburg

Brent Finnegan -- August 14th, 2008

Governor Kaine’s Commission on Immigration held a public hearing at the Festival building at JMU earlier this evening.

coffeeFrom 5:30 to 8:30, the Commission — comprised of multifarious experts and members of the state House and Senate — heard from Valley residents on the topic of illegal immigration. One after another, advocates representing various interests expressed their opinions, fears, experiences and expertise with the silent panel. All comments were limited to three minutes.

The hearing was the fourth of five public hearings across the state, as the panel prepares to draft an advisory report for state lawmakers:

The Commission shall study the costs and benefits that immigration is having on the Commonwealth. Areas of study shall include, but not be limited to the impact immigration has on the economy, public benefits, education, public safety, employment, health care, and law enforcement. All findings shall be reported to the Governor and the General Assembly.

Additionally, the Commission shall examine the effect federal immigration laws have on the Commonwealth, and address the Virginia Congressional Delegation on what issues have been identified that need to be addressed that are federally preempted. Furthermore, public hearings in various regions of the Commonwealth will be held to solicit input from Virginia’s citizens on the impact immigration is having in their communities. Finally, the Commission shall examine the tax contributions of the immigrant population on both the state and federal levels.

I had to leave an hour early, so I missed some of the comments from local law enforcement, but the overwhelming majority of commenters during the first two hours were speaking out against cracking down on unauthorized immigrants in Virginia.

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11 Responses to “Immigration Commission hears from Harrisonburg”

  1. cook says:

    The DNR article this morning covering this event will fascinate those who were present. While the public comments were overwhelmingly welcoming to immigrants, Mellott and his editors paint a picture of “opinions varied” and “groping for balance.” The kicker, though, and the key to understanding how immigrant-friendly the crowd was last night, is Del. Gilbert’s backhanded dismissal of everything we said because we didn’t say what he wanted to hear. Would he have made similar comments had we called for mass jailings and deportations? I suspect then we would’ve been brilliant representatives of a wonderful community.

  2. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I read that, cook. Out of about 40 speakers, 3 were calling for increased crackdowns. To dismiss a ratio that large is just astounding, considering the meeting was announced publicly in a prominent newspaper article before it took place.

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    That reporter’s stories often leave readers asking if they went to the same meeting. The story could have been improved greatly by perhaps three things from Journalism 101. First, a better lede than “Opinions varied …” Second, identification of Vinson as an anti-immigration scold and not just an average citizen. Third, pointing out that Gilbert is becoming a parody of the Know-Nothing group he claims to represent.

    “An anti-immigrant delegate rejected testimony Thursday before a commission he helped form, saying the small minority of speakers who agreed with him were not representative of what he claims to be public sentiment.”

    Hard to tell if it’s the reporter’s failings or the paper’s leanings.

  4. Dave Briggman says:

    Like my observations of many of Mellott’s articles, when I attend the same event he writes about, I question as to whether it was really the same event.

    I can offer no explanation for Gilbert’s actions, except that he, too, voted for House Bill 1382 and Senate Bill 788, which explains enough for me.

  5. finnegan says:

    Karl at WSVA got it right:

    “…Committee members were greeted by a crowd of about 75-people, mostly pro-immigrant.

    More than three dozen people took to the podium to tell the committee their opinions on immigration, both legal and illegal. Most said that immigrants are beneficial to the community…”

    WHSV also had a much more accurate recap (compared to the DNR).

    I’m not often directly, publicly critical of local news organizations, but the DNR story was a complete failure to convey (or deliberate misrepresentation of) what actually happened.

  6. Dave Briggman says:

    I’ll bet on the latter.

  7. Karl says:

    I don’t want to say too much about this, but I must say as I approached the paper box today the headline (and subheadline) really surprised me. Full disclosure: I did not read the article after seeing the headlines.

    One of the bigger story lines last night was how one sided the meeting was pro immigrant. It’s not what I expected. A couple people didn’t say hip-hip hooray for immigrants, but only one seemed to be truly negative.

    One of the offbeat things that I got a kick out of last night was hearing from one of the “Tredegar 12.” I assume most in attendance didn’t even notice, but she was nice enough to share her experience with me after the meeting.

  8. Brooke says:

    Karl – I’m not sure “one-sided” is a fair way to describe that. People knew the meeting was taking place, and had the option to show up. “One-sided” seems to indicate that only one side of the issue was allowed to be presented, and from what I”m hearing that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Either way, hearing about what *really* happened at the meeting is heartening, because I’m starting to think that (thankfully) the anti-immigrant crowd I’ve run into, here and on the DNR comments section, are most likely a very (VERY) loud minority, and not indicative of the majority.

  9. Lowell says:

    Thank you for this “balancing” of the coverage for those of us who were unable to attend.

  10. zen says:

    It appears your headline is more accurate as is.
    “Immigration Commission hears from H’burg”
    Rather than, “Immigration Commission listens to H’burg.”

  11. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Since Brent had to leave early, I took notes on the last several speakers. Here are my notes (names may be and probably are spelled wrong):

    Katie Spitz: JMU student who spent time at Eastern Shore this summer. Observed migrant workers on tomato farms in slave-like conditions such as many to a home, port-a-potty facilities, low wages, etc.

    Tim Carter: Sheriff of Shenandoah County, participates in 287(g). He points out that taking part in the program provides political cover (a “buffer” in his words) for Board of Supervisors members to avoid implementing more drastic policies. 41 people have been arrested for crimes like DUI, assault and battery, indecent exposure, drugs, malicious wounding, etc. They are not “kicking in doors” or worrying about minor offenses. He disagreed with Aaron Cook’s previous testimony. He adds there is not much financial assistance for developing outreach programs and language training for police.

    Isabel Castillo – EMU graduate who supports the DREAM Act. She points out that many undocumented kids wanting to go to college came when they were young and had no say in the matter.

    Cory Bauserman – Rockingham Co. Gang Task Force, 287(g) deputy. Here to remove criminals. In his experience, all gang members and none seeking legal status. Confusing story about someone who committed no crime but was deported and he was a gang leader or something.

    Eliza Hoover – former lawyer, would like it to stay a friendly city, she has stayed for 40 years because she enjoys the diversity of cultures. Think about justice as you consider this complex issue, such as access to legal services. Be careful about tearing families apart. Many exploiters make money off of undocumented immigrants, make them accountable for increased costs.

    Esteban Nieto – In response to guy who talked about park, he said he would rather have immigrant neighbors than loud sorority neighbors. Story about when he and his wife lived in Mexico (she’s American-born), she had complications in pregnancy and came to US to deliver. He had a hard time getting permission to come, came on a tourist visa and overstayed, so for a time he was an illegal immigrant. He says he would have crossed the desert to be with her if they hadn’t given him a tourist visa, and might have died, in which case Virginia would have had to pay for his wife and child.

    Kai Degner – began in German, then said, “So it’s good I can also speak English”. He is a dual citizen (father German, mother from Long Island). He is here to listen but has a sense of fear of even taking part in such a discussion as a candidate because people expect politicians to have solutions and he could be viewed as soft on the issue. We must recognize that no one person has all the answers.

    Woman who was interpreter (didn’t catch her name) – she experienced some discrimination, but not much. Here she has rights as a woman. She says people would be surprised that she believes illegal immigrants should comply with the law. Illegal immigrants bring problems like homeland security and family unity problems. She said she knows kids born in the US to undocumented parents who “don’t belong here” and also don’t belong in their home country, and turn to crime and gangs.

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