County Notebook

County Notebook

GOP Targets Illegal Immigrants

During the upcoming General Assembly session, Republican members of the House of Delegates plan to introduce a series of bills intended to crack down on illegal immigration in Virginia.

"We need to discourage these law breakers, which are illegal aliens," said Del. Dave Albo (R-42) at a pre-election press conference in Springfield with top GOP delegates and Fairfax County candidates.

Albo estimated that there are as many as 80,000 illegal immigrants in Fairfax County, costing taxpayers upwards of $125 million in local education costs.

The Republican-led General Assembly has already voted in recent years to prohibit illegal immigrants from obtaining a drivers license or receiving public benefits, including food stamps.

During the upcoming session, the GOP members in the House will introduce bills that:

* Specifically ban publicly funded day laborer work centers, such as in Herndon and Arlington, unless the centers require proof of legal residency.

* Give law enforcement officers the authority to charge illegal immigrants with trespassing in Virginia. This would be a "secondary offense," in which a police officer could add on if they arrest an illegal immigrant for another crime.

* Require the State Board of Elections to scrub Virginia's voter rolls, removing any fictitious Social Security Numbers. This would prevent any undocumented person from voting in a federal, state or local election.

* Prohibit the state government from entering into any contract with businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

* Fine businesses that employ illegal immigrants with penalties of $5,000 per person, per incident.

Albo said the GOP sees the illegal immigration issue as a way to pick up voters who might otherwise vote for Democrats, including senior citizens, legal immigrants and "soccer moms."

Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada, who is among Virginia's few elected Latino leaders, said Republicans are attacking immigrants because they do not have a voice and cannot fight back.

"They're using immigrants as a political punching bag," Tejada said.

Public Transit Ridership Soars

Public transit ridership in Northern Virginia increased significantly over the past year, with an increase of nearly 3.3 million trips over the previous year, according to a new report from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

In Fairfax County alone, ridership of the Fairfax Connector bus system increased by nearly 500,000 trips, an increase of 6 percent.

Loudoun County reported the highest increase in public transit ridership. The county saw a 31 percent increase in public transit use over the previous year.

Ridership for Metrorail broke all existing records over the past year. And ridership on the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) — which has doubled its ridership since 1998 — is virtually at its capacity of 16,000 passengers daily.

Overall in Northern Virginia, public transportation carried nearly 129 million passengers over the last year. On a typical weekday over the last year, the region's transit system was responsible for 438,000 trips — an increase of 2.5 percent.

Wolf Seeks Answers on Traffic Lights

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) is demanding answers from the Virginia Department of Transportation about why the state agency has not synchronized traffic lights on Route 7 from Leesburg to Tysons Corner.

Wolf secured $2.5 million in federal funding for the project, which is intended to increase traffic flow during peak gridlock hours in the morning and afternoon.

Wolf sent a letter Tuesday to Virginia Transportation Secretary Piece Homer expressing his "exasperation" over the state's failure to implement the system.

"VDOT, it appears, is almost a year behind in fully implementing this new system to improve traffic flow in this important commuter corridor," Wolf wrote.

$72,000 For Strategic Planning?

The Fairfax County School Board is considering awarding a $72,000 contract to the Aspen Group International, Inc. to help the school system overhaul its strategic plan and governance approach.

The Aspen Group, based in Colorado, helps school boards across the country to develop a vision, mission and goal statements.

The contract would extend over the next year, as the school board continues to consider ways to change how it leads the school system and guides the county's education policy. The School Board will vote on the contract at its Nov. 15 meeting.

County Calendar

School Board Meeting. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Luther Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church.

Board of Supervisors Meeting. Monday, Nov. 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.