EDITORIAL: Stewart’s duty is to Prince William County
Published: June 26, 2010
Corey Stewart, not content to let the spotlight shine only on leaders in another state, is now pushing a law in Virginia similar to illegal immigration legislation in Arizona.
Virginia’s version would, among other things, “Make it a violation of Virginia law to fail to complete alien registration documents,” according to Stewart’s website: http://www.coreystewart.com/ruleoflaw. Police officers would be required to check “in any lawful contact, the legal presence of an individual, when practicable.” Go to Stewart’s website to see all aspects of the proposed law.
The issue here isn’t whether the legislation is a good idea, it’s whether Stewart has any business pursuing it. His job is to be the chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, so what is he doing trying to change state law? That is the job of our delegates and state senators, some of whom have stated that they are pursuing state remedies for illegal immigration already. Perhaps if this were a proposal supported mainly for the good of the county, we would understand. However, arguably, Prince William County, which already has a controversial illegal immigration law, is the jurisdiction that would benefit least—despite Stewart’s assertion that some illegal immigrants who have fled may be returning.
In an interview with Editorial Page Editor Alex Granados, Stewart said that state leaders in Richmond have shown themselves incapable of doing what’s necessary.
“The legislature down there has had three years to do something, and they have done nothing,” he said.
Furthermore, he says that the attention he has received in the past as a crusader against illegal immigration will be a boon to his current effort.
“For better or worse, I have the notoriety on the issue that I can use,” he said.
And by spreading news about the proposed bill to everyday citizens, he hopes they will pressure state legislators to take action.
Stewart is right that state legislators have not found a fix for illegal immigration. But that probably has more to do with the fact that the issue is complicated than with anything else. The newspaper has never found our area’s leaders particularly fearful of controversy. Quite the opposite, in fact. And regardless, it is not Stewart’s place, as BOCS chairman, to do their job for them. He has a responsibility to Prince William County, one that cannot be effectively fulfilled when he is focused on reforming state law.
As for Stewart’s notoriety and its usefulness, he is correct. His reputation will bring attention to illegal immigration reform. However, it will also bring attention to Prince William County—attention that it does not need.
When the county went through its debate over illegal immigration years ago, a great deal of negative publicity was focused here. Perceptions of the area across the country varied widely, but no matter the opinion, the county became intertwined with controversy.
Gradually, the uproar has faded. However, with Stewart’s involvement in this new illegal immigration fight, the county, once again, will become a focal point.
In a time when local jurisdictions are battling a tough economy, Stewart should not hamstring us with a possibly negative reputation. What businesses will want to invest in a seemingly divided community? What professionals will want to move here when all they hear about us in the news relates to strife? Stewart’s notoriety might be good for illegal immigration reform, but it’s not good for the county.
Whether or not the attempt to model Virginia after Arizona succeeds, one of the main people to benefit from this will be Stewart. We have already seen with his short-lived attempt to become lieutenant governor that he has higher ambitions. We don’t fault him for that—that is the nature of political leaders. However, we have a problem with Stewart harping on issues outside the county for the sake of his own reputation, which we believe is the case here.
Virginia probably does need better illegal immigration laws. It also needs strong leaders to make it happen. But we don’t need Corey Stewart to do that now. He was elected to focus on the residents of Prince William County, not the state. Until he is actually elected to higher office, we would like to see him keep his focus here.