The Virginia gubernatorial race of Jerry Kilgore (R) , whose Shaolim name is “He Who Coos Like the Pigeons,” has been listing for weeks. The most recent polling numbers, from the end of June, showed that Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) had erased Kilgore’s once-formidable lead, and Kilgore just can’t seem to get anyone to pay attention to him. Of course, the fact that he appears in public about as often as Punxsutawney Phil hasn’t helped him too much either. Kilgore’s got two options: quit ducking Tim Kaine’s repeated challenges to debates and engage on the issues affecting Virginia voters, such as transportation and education, or bigfoot into some local issue that he can use to get votes in other parts of the state. I think you know which option he’s taking.
Jerry K has decided to take on those juggernauts of money, power, and political influence: immigrants. Fairfax county, the rapidly growing, most economically productive county in the commonwealth, has decided to spend about $400,000 on services for day laborers. Most of that money would go to building and operating a small day laborer center in the town of Herndon, which is densely populated with recent immigrants. Right now, more than a hundred day laborers gather in a 7-11 parking lot each morning, hoping they’ll get picked up for a really crappy job. Some of these workers are illegal aliens, but many of them are here legally and just want to work. The present arrangement is unsafe for the workers, hopelessly disorganized for employers, and uncomfortable for the shop’s customers (how would you like a hundred guys to press in on you for a job when all you wanted was a Bavarian crème?). The new center would get these laborers out of parking lots and into a safe, controlled location where they can find employment without freaking out local residents. Well, “into” might be too strong a word, as the plan is for a trailer and some outdoor covered seating. Inside the trailer the laborers will be able to take some classes (primarily ESL). They’d also be able to register their names and skills, so that prospective employers can more easily get the men and women they need.
Now, some folks might say that providing safety, dignity, and employment opportunities is a good thing, but Kilgore will have none of it:
"We face a fundamental decision in Virginia," Kilgore told reporters in a conference call. "Will we reward illegal behavior with hard-earned dollars from law-abiding citizens? I say the answer to this question should be an easy one: No."
[ed. note: Am I the only one who giggles when a Republican in the Rove/Delay mold says we shouldn’t give tax dollars to criminals? I kinda thought that’s what they were all about.]
Indicting all day laborers as illegal immigrants is bad enough, but that’s just Jerry being Jerry. In addition to his desire to prevent a locality from fixing its own problems with its own money, he wants to order the police to enforce immigration laws that traditionally are the domain of the feds (i.e., the INS). Maybe things are different down where Jerry chills, but ‘round these parts the cops have plenty enough to take care of already. Unfunded mandates from Richmond are not welcome.
Kilgore doesn’t really care about Herndon. He knows that many people in Virginia have vague but often negative feelings about immigrants and immigration. We all know what an easy group they are to scapegoat. Kilgore can tap into those feelings on a statewide level by dragging this local issue around with him on his campaign.
If I could ever actually get Kilgore to appear in public (fat chance) and actually get him to answer a question (even fatter chance), I’d like to ask him why he doesn’t want to go after those who employ illegal aliens. Checking immigration status is already the responsibility of employers (not cops); all that needs doing is to make sure employers do their part. As the gun people say, we don’t need more gun laws, we just need strict enforcement of the ones that are already on the books.
Jerry claims he doesn’t want to reward illegal behavior, but something tells me that he might not be as tough on businesses as he is on day laborers. Funny how that works with the GOP.