While the Board of Supervisors continue its August recess and the County Administrator’s Office continues to look into the possibility of restricting county services for illegal immigrants, Loudoun’s citizen groups are looking toward the future and what could happen come September.
"At this point everything is hypothesis," Laura Valle, president of La Voz, a Hispanic outreach nonprofit group, said. "Part of the problem is that the public isn’t going to know what any of the recommendations are going to be before they are presented to the board."
In July, the Board of Supervisors asked county staff to examine whether any county services could legally be withheld from illegal immigrants and if the county can withhold business license and permits from employers who hire workers without proper immigration documents.
"I hope that the board would agree to study the recommendations and make them public," Valle said.
VALLE’S LA VOZ and other groups opposed to the possibility of restricted county services said that they are focusing on educating residents and those with questions about the realities of illegal immigration.
"The goal is not to say they are right or wrong to want to do something," Valle said. "But we want the Loudoun citizens to be involved in this."
Mukit Hossain, president of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, said he is also concerned with making Loudoun residents civically engaged. Hossain, along with other immigrant groups, recently formed the American Dream Alliance, which will work on voter registration and campaigns that support the immigrant community.
"These sort of issues should be dealt with in the ballot box," Hossain said. "I think if you can create activity leading up to the November election, I think we can alleviate the situation."
SUPPORTERS OF THE potential legislation say they are in wait-and-see mode, but are concerned that people have been jumping the gun in responding to the board’s actions.
"There is nothing in the resolution they passed that singles someone out by ethnicity," Joe Budzinski, president of Help Save Loudoun, said. "If people are here legally, I don’t see any part of this, if it is turned into an ordinance, that would cause them problems."
Valle, however, said if the county moves forward, its leaders would have to be very careful about how the ordinance is enforced.
"If it really does extend to all county services, that would include a park or a public pool," she said. "If they’re going to verify status at a park or a pool, most parents don’t pack documentation in their pool bag."
Valle also said that the county will have to enforce the citizenship verification without exception or they will open themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit.
"A person could be here legally in a number of ways, but that doesn’t mean you’re eligible for all benefits," she said. "The county staff has to be well-versed in all levels of access [to benefits]."
BUDZINSKI SAID that while he has given one supervisor a copy of the lawful employment ordinance passed in Beaufort County, S.C., Help Save Loudoun is going to wait and see what the county staff presents to the board in September before moving forward with any actions of its own.
"We’ll see what the initial report is and then I’m sure our group will have some recommendations for the board," he said.
But Hossain said the effects of the potential legislation are already being felt around the county.
"It is already creating a tremendous atmosphere of fear in the immigrant community," he said. "It’s already created a real possibility of unfair and illegal profiling."