As the congressional clock ticks with continued inaction, Virginia and the nation seek resolutions regarding immigration reform. Fleeing illegal Hispanic children housed in Augusta County and Prince William County, Virginia, demand compassionate but firm action as more may arrive.
This was a key topic of discussion for the Governor’s Virginia Latino Advisory Board meeting last week in Northern Virginia. The subject was as unresolvable as the group’s desire to find relevancy.
It remained difficult for the visiting public, including Stafford and Prince William County Delegate Michael Futrell, to not acknowledge the Hispanic board remains a work in progress. Chairman Michael Zajur’s lack of parliamentary procedural knowledge was obvious. And with no operative by-laws yet, at least there was a quorum … this time.
Futrell, who was the only elected official present, focused on the discussion by Ann Rust, State Director for Senator Mark Warner. She delivered a presentation on immigration policy and relative actions regarding the President’s DACA degree “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
Undocumented children housed at “Youth for Tomorrow,” a private non-profit home in Prince William County whose chairman is former Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs, concern Futrell. He intends to visit the site soon. The subject was equally discussed with passion at the recent Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting.
While over half a million illegal aliens nationally between the ages of 15 and 31 have work permits and protected legal sanctuary because of DACA, the projection of over 150,000 more undocumented arriving next year remains disconcerting.
However, the Obama administration is responsibly examining what could be done to return and process illegals that might qualify for refugee status by remaining in their host countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as part of the solution. But the rabid objections of extremist tea party operatives decimate Republican opportunity with independent Hispanic voters by contesting administrative funding needs.
Rust correctly stated, “This certainly highlights the need for immigration reform,” which will not occur this congressional session.
The end result of continued congressional vacillation forces Obama and Democratic Governors like Terry McAuliffe to act by executive fiat. And in the face of conservative insensitivity and responsibility, perhaps they should.
In spite of objections from Republicans’ most flagrant anti-immigrant officials such as Prince William’s Corey Stewart, the immigration crisis provides the VLAB a unique opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking. Innovative leadership and “committed” appointees would help. Perhaps in their new by-laws should be a provision that requires expulsion for any member missing two meetings. Currently the board meets only four times a year. Still, it’s hard to get legal legislative work done without a quorum.
Nevertheless, is it time for Virginia to go it alone and have Attorney General Mark Herring support compassionate executive actions by Governor Terry McAuliffe with a modern day state-run Bracero program?
Or will it take forward thinking leaders like Futrell working with VLAB members generating a responsible dialogue with proposed legislation? Either way, it’s time for Virginia to lead on the issue.
Two key ladies involved with the VLAB can be the answer to moving the immigration ball forward. Virginia’s Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues, who has been attending meetings, desires to see the board become the most respected advisory board in the commonwealth regarding Latino issues. As the most powerful Democratic Latino woman serving in the McAuliffe administration, Zajur and his successor would be wise to pay heed to her advice.
Rodrigues’s counterpart who sits on the board is the well-known Republican Theresa Speake who served as part of President Bush’s administration as the Director of the Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and was named as one of the top 100 Latinas in the nation.
McAuliffe would be wise to continue to appoint established Hispanics like Speake, a stickler for protocol and detail, to help Rodrigues mold the VLAB into a more germane board.
The diversity of the commonwealth demands the VLAB indeed stay true to its mission to call on government officials with positive changes. Futrell, Rodrigues, and Speake should continue to stay involved as the board reconfigures itself offering positive recommendations for the children’s sake. But first things first … send Zajur a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Daniel Cortez, a distinguished Vietnam veteran and award winning writer/broadcaster, is active in veterans and political affairs with an independent voter perspective. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org