While I am still going through UVA’s report on the success of the Rule of Law Resolution, which tells a lot of the positive story we living at the heart of the issue have experienced over the past three years, there’s some warning signs in the report that deserve immediate attention. We knew this would never be a complete solution to the issue, but a strong first effort to get control of the illegal alien problem locally, and that at some point we’d have to revisit where we were. The signs in this report seem to indicate that time might be at hand. With this data in hand, it’s probably time to start thinking about the next steps for Prince William County, and Virginia as a whole.
Anecdotal evidence has been trickling in over the past year or so that illegal aliens are slowly returning, now that the effects of the scare tactics employed by the illegal alien lobby have largely worn off. Although the Rule of Law Resolution did address some policy options that would decrease the number of illegal aliens unlawfully residing in our community, the insane reaction by folks like Mexicans Without Borders to the policy probably had more of an effect than the policy itself. When people trusted by the Hispanic community and speaking their language screamed dire warnings that police were going to start conducting immigration sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods and pulling over ever car driven by a Hispanic in order to conduct immigration checks, terrified immigrants who couldn’t obtain or didn’t trust information from other sources ran for the hills.
Within the UVA report is quite a bit data about overcrowding complaints registered with Property Code Enforcement, which has correlated pretty closely with the illegal alien problem and been a particularly troubling issue for local residents. The expected trend was that complaints plummeted considerably in the wake of the adoption of the Rule of Law Resolution, and would slowly start to creep back up. Anecdotally this has been the observation, and the report certainly confirms a widespread perception that a vast proportion of boarding houses cleared out immediately after the passage of the Rule of Law Resolution and that while the problem hasn’t entirely gone away, it certainly hasn’t returned to the seriousness we saw proper to the resolution.
The UVA report provides statistics about the number of overcrowding complaints and the number confirmed as violations before and after resolution passed, although they don’t make much mention of changes in Prince William County’s code and some changes in the procedures employed to enforce the code that probably have a big impact on these numbers. Instead of relying on the International Fire Code limits that would allow sixteen people to live in the typical three bedroom house in the Manassas area, the county adopted much more sensible occupancy limits based on the square footage of the structure. PCE also encouraged inspectors to investigate complaints after business hours, when it was more likely to find more of the residents actually living in a residence at the residence. For quite a while during this study period the enforcement of sane occupancy limitations was fundamentally broken, and lots of people suffering alongside of “stacked” houses just gave up on reporting problems because the problems never seemed to get resolved no matter who the problems were reported to.
The data in the UVA report shows some disturbing trends in residential overcrowding, even though such significant changes in handling complaints happened which make the data somewhat resistant to interpretation. While overcrowding complaints have generally decreased as would be expected, the number of violations actually issued has been on a steady upwards trend. Code changes that make it easier for inspectors to cite obvious problems would account for some of that, but with more effective enforcement one would expect the flagrant disregard for community well-being seen during 2006 would give way to much more voluntary compliance with both the law and community standards. That number would be expected to go up when enforcement catches up with the problem, but then sharply recede a lot once the word got out that you couldn’t get away with turning your income property into a flop house for illegal alien day laborers or as we saw all too often, corporate temporary housing for illegal aliens employed by Verizon subcontractors or a number of local homebuilders.
The opportunities to address the residential overcrowding associated with illegal aliens by enacting additional ordinances are few and difficult, and at least now the problem isn’t so much that the ordinances aren’t sufficiently comprehensive, it’s that they’re not being enforced enough to get the word out on the street that setting up a boarding house is a losing proposition. People wouldn’t be engaging in this outrageous conduct if it weren’t financially rewarding, and with any unlawful activity if enforcement is lacking you get a growing problem if there’s financial fuel for the fire. The data seems to suggest the problem is growing, and that absolutely needs to be addressed. No one should have to live in close proximity to this kind of problem.
With the quality of life issues associated with illegal immigration starting to return, it’s time to get back to work looking for some effective, constitutionally sound, and responsible ways to address this issue. Asking for more effective enforcement is certainly a good place to start, but more effectively addressing the issue of the unlawful hiring practices that make it possible for those running illegal alien boarding houses to easily find tenants who want to rent is more central to the problem. Dry up the demand for boarding houses that cater to illegal aliens, and the problem pretty much disappears.
Seems like a push for mandating the statewide use of E-Verify by businesses and government is quite overdue. The Senate of Virginia gutted a bill last year that would do just that, so perhaps that’s the place to start.
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