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The International Herald Tribune is running a story about Herndon, Virginia (pop. 22,000). During the 90’s the small town’s Latino community increased by 264 percent and nearly 4 in 10 current residents are foreign born. A sometimes heated debate on immigration began in this small city when a 7-11 became a make-shift day labor site and its neighbors got nervous. The city council proposed spending $170,000 to build a center, but the project was met with protests.
As in Herndon, illegal immigrants are a growing presence nationwide - perhaps 11 million of them, roughly equaling those legally present. The costs of their presence tend to draw more attention than the economic boost their cheap labor provides (they help moderate inflation, says Alan Greenspan). People complain of paying for immigrants’ social benefits - although these have been sharply pared - and, increasingly, of crime and insecurity.
Crime is a problem in all communities, but I would venture to say that the vast majority of immigrants are here to make a living.
A recent NBC News poll found that nearly half of those surveyed in this nation of immigrants thought that immigration made the country weaker. Yet, studies show immigration is a net economic plus, worth perhaps $10 billion yearly.
“These guys work twice as hard,” Joe Schilling, a Virginian who hires Latino laborers for yard work, told a local newspaper. “I get a lot more work done for my money.”
Despite opposition the project passed, but the criticism hasn’t stopped.
At a recent council meeting, someone read a letter from Rep. Tancredo which “noted that two state governors this week have had to declare a State of Emergency in eight border counties to deal with the impact of illegal aliens in Arizona and New Mexico.”
What did the Mayor say?
“Tell Congressman Tancredo that Virginia is not on the Border.”