Making Herndon More FAIR?

Making Herndon More FAIR?

The Town Council passes two resolutions that target illegal aliens.

Continuing the assault on illegal immigration, the Herndon Town Council passed two resolutions Tuesday that further an agenda to make the town inhospitable to illegal aliens even as one member warned of backlash from the Latino community.

The first, which passed unanimously, requires the town manager to implement and enforce procedures to assure that town contractors and subcontractors do not hire illegal aliens. While violations do not constitute a criminal penalty, contractor payments could be stopped and contracts canceled.

The second resolution requires the town manager to enforce procedures to prevent illegal aliens from receiving business licenses. The resolutions follow a council decision two weeks ago to apply for a federal program that would train police officers in immigration enforcement.

TOWN OFFICIALS were unclear about how effective, if at all, the two new resolutions would be in attaining their objectives, a major complaint of council member J. Harlon Reece.

Urging caution, Reece told the council that the measures could have “unintended consequences.”

“Like it or not, some are going to see [these resolutions] as anti-immigrant,” said Reece, worried about the reaction of the Latino community, which accounts for about a quarter of the town’s 23,000 residents, according to census data. “With our frustration with illegal aliens and our eagerness to act, I think we’re more influenced by our hearts than our heads.”

Reece voted in favor of the first resolution, but was the sole dissenter of the second, arguing it could drive away business.

Council member Charlie Waddell disagreed. “We’re trying to protect workers from unscrupulous contractors and subcontractors,” said Waddell. “We’re not zeroing in on any particular sub-group.”

Maybe not, said Reece, but that would likely be the perception.

BOTH RESOLUTIONS received praise from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national group that supports stricter immigration enforcement.

Sandra Gunn, a representative of FAIR, commended the council for the measures and offered suggestions to strengthen them before they were passed.

Gunn also recommended that the town adopt a federal pilot program that verifies the legal status of workers. “I think any contractor that the town will be working with should be happy to use that program,” said council member Connie Hutchinson.

While other council members thought the program sounded worthwhile, it wasn’t considered at Tuesday night’s meeting.

During the public hearings before the council votes, many residents praised the resolutions.

But Ruth Tatlock, a resident for 33 years, worried the first resolution might add an additional, costly layer of bureaucracy to the town government.

“Will this mean we’ll have to get a new layer of red tape?” said Tatlock. “It seems like it’s adding something that’s already there.”

Reece asked about the costs to taxpayers, but town staff could not provide answers.

HERNDON JUMPED back into the national spotlight last month when it took steps to join seven state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to empower local police in the fight on illegal immigration.

The council voted on Sept. 26 to apply for enrollment in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s "Section 287(g)" program, which trains local police officers to determine whether criminal suspects in custody are illegal immigrants.

The program certifies officers to detain illegal immigrants and begin the deportation process before cases are turned over to the federal agency.