Saturday, May 03, 2008

Have tools existed all along to combat problem of illegals?

In the wake of the supposed Help Save Manassas happiness with PWC reverting illegal immigration enforcement to the pre-resolution rules (for those not arrested for other crimes), one may ask if we really needed to spend so much time and effort, and stir up so much bad blood, to solve this problem.

Now Manassas City provides another example of how existing law, properly followed, seems quite adequate for controlling many of the problems associated with illegal immigrants.

In this case, last year many complaints were raised about the safety of street vendors selling food without appropriate controls in place for public health and safety. It turned out the Manassas City rules prohibited street vendors, but the city was issuing permits anyway. This led to illegal immigrant fighters insisting that Manassas City had to pass a new rule prohibiting illegals from selling things.

Well, now the City has passed a new ordinance allowing street vendors, and it doesn't say one word about illegal immigrants. But once again, HSM members are overjoyed. First, the story about the new city rules:

The city of Manassas adopted an ordinance this week that has painted the peddler picture crystal clear: People who are there illegally can't do it.
After nearly a year of deliberating on a new ordinance, council approved a measure Wednesday that allows peddling on city streets while upgrading the requirements to do so. Peddlers will now have to have photo permits on them at all times and must be properly insured for the use of any vehicle, whether a truck, van or push cart. The city will also perform state and local criminal background checks before issuing a permit.
Originally, the city wanted to adopt provisions in the ordinance that specifically referred to checking the legal status of anyone wanting to peddle goods in the city.

However, after seeking outside legal counsel on the matter, the city decided its current standards of practice and existing provisions in the ordinance more than made up for any new wording that may have been constitutionally problematic.
"The research of federal law indicated that I must deny a commercial license to any one not legally in the United States, so the language removed is not necessary in the ordinance."

Trying to shoehorn the language on illegals into the law was causing some of the same problems in the city that we have experienced in the county with our resolution -- such as the misguided but understandable fear of the hispanic community that they were being unfairly targetted by people who were using the illegal immigration issue as a smokescreen to "take back their neighborhoods" from immigrants.

This is an important law for the city. It allows for street vendors which were welcomed by the communities they served, even if disliked by others in the surrounding county. But it provides reasonable health protections, partly by insuring that those selling food aren't already breaking the law by being here illegally. People who know they can be deported probably aren't worried about getting arrested for health code violations, and if they caused illness they could simply pack up and run off.

Those here legally have something to lose -- their legal status if they are immigrants, or their freedom if they are citizens who have no where to flee to.

Sometimes you need to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, in order to get to where common-sense provisions can be enacted. Last year we clearly were not doing enough to combat the real problems in the city and county. Now after a bit of overkill, we could well be reaching a rational consensus. I guess it remains to be seen how these new laws will work.

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