Herndon Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to appoint Mayor Steve DeBenedittis and Vice Mayor Dennis Husch to the Coalition on Illegal Immigration. The Coalition is a recently formed group, with a mission of acting as a legislative advocate in issues related to illegal immigration.
Husch, who attended the initial meeting of the Coalition on Oct. 25, said that many of the Commonwealth’s jurisdictions are only now beginning to fell the impact of illegal aliens on their communities. "This is a purely legislative approach to those issues," said Husch about the Coalition.
According to the minutes from the Oct. 25 meeting, representatives of 12 jurisdictions attended the Coalition’s initial meeting. Town Council member J. Harlon Reece said he was concerned at first that the representatives are elected officials. However, he said, "They are the ones charged with resolving legislative issues." Reece also said it made sense to have counties, cities and towns come together and share ideas on how to best collect facts and data to identify possible issues. He added, "I hope it would send a message to our federal officials."
"It is absolutely imperative that Herndon joins with other municipalities," said Council member Connie Hutchinson. "There is strength in numbers" when advocating for legislation, she added. Council member Charlie Waddell said a concerted effort of a number of jurisdictions is needed in order for the concerns to be heard. "State and federal leaders will recognize it’s not just an isolated issue," he said. Waddell added that joining the Coalition is a "definite leap forward" for Herndon.
"Herndon is and has always been friendly to immigration," said Council member William Tirrell. He said the Coalition is an effort to collect data on illegal aliens, not immigrants. The distinction is that the word immigrant implies legal status. Tirrell added that the Coalition’s forming is therefore not an immigration issue. "Immigrants continue to be welcome here," said Tirrell.
Husch said that Herndon has been on the forefront of the issue for years, and that it has a "moral and professional responsibility" to contribute to the Coalition. He said Herndon could share some of its documentation, past ordinances and ideas on legislation, with the jurisdictions that are now starting to feel the impact of illegal aliens in their communities. The Coalition on Illegal Immigration is scheduled to meet on Nov. 29. DeBenedittis was absent from the Nov. 13 Town Council meeting.