Public forums on illegal immigration in the works in Virginia Beach
By Susan White
January 3, 2008
A series of community forums on immigration issues will likely be held this spring in Virginia Beach.
Fay Silverman, chairwoman of the city's Human Rights Commission, told commission members Thursday that topics for discussion and speakers will be decided after the City Council is briefed later this month on immigration policies.
The report from the city attorney's office is expected to detail what measures city departments now enforce and what actions the city could take on illegal immigration. Some council members in November proposed that the city tighten its immigration policies, including requiring that the city's contractors and vendors prove that all of their workers are in the United States legally.
The forums would be the first city-sponsored discussions on illegal immigration since a car crash last year that killed two teenage Beach girls.
Alfredo Ramos, an illegal immigrant driving drunk, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. Ramos is serving a 24-year prison sentence for the teens' deaths and will then be deported.
A month after the March crash, which received national attention, Mayor Meyera Oberndorf announced that the commission would study a potential new city policy for dealing with illegal immigrants. City leaders later pulled back, citing a need for community calm before further action or public discussions.
Caution must still be taken, Silverman said.
“We don't want to make it a powder-keg subject either,” she said.
The commission is “here to protect the citizens of Virginia Beach,” she added. “But that doesn't mean that we will sit still if there is discrimination.”
Alicia Fernandez-Bobulinski, commission vice chairwoman, urged the group and others to “keep an open mind” on immigration. Fernandez-Bobulinski has pushed for a city forum to help balance the debate and dispel stereotyping.
Susan E. White, (757) 222-5114, firstname.lastname@example.org