Thursday, May 22, 2008

Commission on Immigration: Public Comments

Sent to: immigration.commission@governor.virginia.gov

Dear Commission:

Since I cannot attend today's meeting, I would like to add my comments to the public record.

While immigration is a complex issue that must be addressed at the federal level, we must consider reasonable actions at the local level. By the local level, I mean the neighborhood level. We can do this in the following ways:

1. Education for assimilation: education can be in the form of live meetings to communicate what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Since many minorities (and others) are reticent to attend meetings, simple of understand written materials should also be available in several languages. This is one way to head off potential problems like over-crowding and petty crime. English classes should also be openly available for anyone who needs them. For this to happen, fear must be reduced.

2. Enforcement of fire and safety codes: this is essential to the health and well being of our communities. Fire and safety codes are objective measurements that prevent over-crowding. If families are living in crowded conditions, they need to be referred to housing assistance agencies that will help them relocate. This means we need to invest in personnel to check fire and safety hazards and in affordable housing and rental programs.

3. Community clean up days: we need as many people as possible to participate. In every community, there is trash. In every community, there are people who care. Further trash prevention measures can be implemented via #1 (general trash) and #2 (biohazards).

4. Friendly door-to-door visits from local public officials (not police, not HOA's or private group members): these should be designed to welcome all residents and provide information on services and contacts. Alleged "flop houses" should not be omitted from these visits.

5. Fair and humane treatment of all prisoners, illegal immigrants and otherwise: we can assume that all criminals should be incarcerated in some way but that every criminal has the right to humane treatment. Keep in mind that just violating current immigration law is a civil offense; it is not a criminal offense and should never be treated as one.

At the federal level, we need the following.

1. More than just enforcement: enforcement only breeds an atmosphere of fear and injustice. Without policy reform and implementation, including securing the borders and helping current residents work towards citizenship, we are wasting time and money.

2. Increased diplomacy with Mexico and other countries represented by large immigrant populations in the United States: without such diplomatic efforts, any policy reform is bound to lack support at the international levels which puts our country at risk.

3. Congress people demanding policy reform and truly working together to fix this problem which clearly has been neglected for too long.

If there is one thing the resolution in Prince William County has taught us it's that local policy "snuck" in with disregard for public opinion from every sector is disastrous to the economy, the harmony of the community, the reputation and perception of the area, and the safety of all.

Allowing any one group to dominate the discussion on immigration, bypassing democratic process, and preventing open government destroys a community faster than any recession can.

Please consider my thoughts and ideas carefully. I am always happy to answer questions.


Sincerely,


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
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