HelpSaveLoudoun Candidates' Forum, Pt. 2

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To understand the problem of illegal immigration at the local level - the only level that seems to have any real relevance currently - please scroll down in this post and take a moment to review the transcripts of the recent HelpSaveLoudoun Candidates' Forum meeting in Sterling, Virginia.

Click here for Part 1 of the February 19 meeting, for the candidates' statements. Scroll down for the latest.

[The next Candidates' Forum will take place at 7:00 pm, March 26, at the Loudoun County Senior Center at Cascades.]

Following is Part 2 of the February 19 Forum, in which we get a sense of local citizens' sentiment about this issue.

Highlights:


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- "I happened to have a bunch of seventh and eighth graders in my car yesterday on my way to a ski trip and they were from a few different middle schools in the area, and the big joke was that Sterling Middle School is "SMS", and it's right in the name - "MS" central."

- "The unfortunate part is with gangs, they recruit younger and younger and the older gang members recruit the younger kids - and having kids in school myself I'm very concerned about the future of our schools."

- "As a parent or mentor, you should get involved and tell the school administration - they may not know."

- "They do not come here to become acculturated. They do not come here to become citizens. The main income for Mexico is the income that comes back from people who are working here illegally, and they send that money back home. They don't want to be acculturated. So what we have to do is cut off the funding."

- "I had deputies that I called to my house for noise, public urination: They told me two things. One, 'it's a cultural thing so you just have to understand.' Or, two, 'why don't you move out of the barrio?'"

- "Why don't you just drive through Sterling Park and start ticketing the vehicles that are parked on the streets? Why do we as citizens have to constantly call the Sheriff's department? Why don't they just drive through the Park and ticket them and tow them out?"

- "I know that if we take some of these people in who have not committed some type of major criminal offense, ICE isn't going to take them. What are we to do with them? I have absolutely nothing I can do with them."

- "For the most part, the Democrats want the cheap votes and the Republicans want the cheap labor."

- "We've got a community policing program that is just for show."

- "When fathers come over here they abandon their wives and children - they send back a check but it's causing huge problems in Latin America."

- "We try to make a difference here, then maybe we can make a difference with the chicken farmers in Mexico."

Complete transcript below the fold.

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Questioner:
Sheriff Simpson, you said you will be opening up a substation in South Riding?
Sheriff Simpson:
We will be opening up a substation in South Riding within the next couple of months.
Questioner:
Is there a station yet in Sterling?
Sheriff Simpson:
The only one that's in Sterling is the on that's off Route 28; it serves as our eastern end station. We're working with the school board and the board of supervisors to get a permanent substation down near the elementary school off Sterling Boulevard.
Next Questioner:
I happened to have a bunch of seventh and eighth graders in my car yesterday on my way to a ski trip and they were from a few different middle schools in the area, and the big joke was that Sterling Middle School is "SMS", and it's right in the name - "MS" central. And from what I know of the school board they seem to be in denial that there would be any gang problem in the schools at all, much less in the middle school level. But these kids seem to think that MS is a big deal in that school, and I thought that was kind of scary - they thought it was funny. And I wanted to know if any of you have any thoughts or initiatives towards gangs in the schools.
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Sheriff Simpson:
It certainly isn't funny although some kids who don't know the seriousness of it may look on it as a joke. But it's a very real problem; it's an issue that we have to deal with here in Loudoun County, and we've been dealing with for a number of years now. As the population continues to grow - and unfortunately the Hispanic population, as it continues to grow, they prey on their own. They recruit from within for these gangs, MS-13, the 18th Street gang, two rival gangs here in Loudoun County that are predominately Hispanic. Back in 2002 is when we really started to see a big rise in MS-13 - they had a big group meeting down in Algonquian Park in one of the pavillions and kind of took over the pavillion. Fortunately we had some intelligence and had staked it out and did a lot of videotaping, ID-ing people as they came out of the park, and we started putting pressure on them about then.

Even though I think we did catch it just in time, because if you look at some of the other jurisdictions and some of the issues they are having that we don't have here in Loudoun County - like these open air recruiting drives and parties and meetings they're now having down in southern Virginia, down in Page County - they've moved out of this area. To say the gang problem is gone is far from accurate because we're a long way from being there.

The unfortunate part is with gangs, they recruit younger and younger and the older gang members recruit the younger kids - and having kids in school myself I'm very concerned about the future of our schools. That's why I take the gang issue so seriously: Because if you don't feel safe sending your kids to school, if you don't feel safe letting them go down to the park to play, if you don't feel safe getting out of your car and walking to the shopping center, that's a problem. And that's the kind of thing we have to deal with very aggressively. That's why we're working so hard on this issue and that's why I'm on so many different committees on the federal, state and local level - dealing with this and seeing what some of the other jurisdictions are doing, learning from PG County and Montgomery County, finding out some of the same players that work over there work over here. Working with these other jurisdication to find out what they're doing that works.

Fortunately, as time has gone on, we've developed a better and better relationship with the schools. In 1995 when I first ran for office, and in 1996 when I was elected and talking about getting us involved in schools and some of the issues that we were seeing, people looked at me like I had tow heads. The schools were denying it; law enforcement was denying it - everybody's pointing the finger at each other and nobody's doing anything about it.

But the kids knew it; the parents knew it. If you want to know what's going on, talk to the kids. And that's why the school resource program is so important. Certain members of the Board, in years past, tried to get rid of the DARE program. The DARE program doesn't just talk about drugs. It talks about peer pressure. It talks about gangs. It talks about bullying. It talks about the violence. It talks about how to stay away from those temptations that are out there.

It's the same type of thing the gang members look for when they recruit: They look for kids that are on their own and have too much time on their hands, and are unsupervised. They are at risk. Those are the kinds of kids they look for to recruit for these gangs. So that's why we have to get involved in the schools, and we are involved in all the middle schools and high schools with the school resource officer program.

Just recently within the past year we started in the middle schools teaching the GREAT program - Gang Resistance Education And Training, to help the folks in middle schools and high schools be a little bit more aware of what you're looking at when you look at gangs: how to recognize it and how to stay away from it, and the negative side of gangs. It may sound all glamorous up front, but when you get into a gang and decide you want to get out you can't just say "I quit." It doesn't work that way. So it's a very serious problem, and it takes law enforcement, and the schools, and the parents, all working on this together or it's not going to work.

And that's a problem we're having, especially in the Hispanic community, trying to get this message out. One of the steps in our gang task force is not just enforcement, but prevention and education as well. Trying to get this message into the home, getting our non-English speaking citizens, or people in the community whose kids are in school - the kids understand English but the parents don't, and the only thing the parents hear is what the kids tell them. So we have to have a mechanism for getting the word into these different homes about what to watch out for for your kids, how to steer them in the right direction. It's a very big challenge. So it's a big concern, but it's going to take law enforcement, and the schools, and the parents all working together to make it work. Because we can't lock everybody up, and there's got to be an education and prevention part of this as well. And that's where it starts: in the home and in the schools.


Geary Higgins:

If I may: Did you say you were a mother of students in the school, or a teacher, or both?

Questioner:

Actually, I am just a youth mentor and was taking them on a ski trip.

Higgins:

I would say this: As a former school board member, I know that in a prior term we were very concerned about gangs and what was going on in the schools with gangs. We worked with the county for the resource officers in those schools, and I would tell you I know most of those school board members and I would reach out to them and speak to them about this problem. As a parent or mentor, you should get involved and tell the school administration - they may not know. I know that when my wife and I had our three girls, they all graduated from Loudoun Valley, and we tried to put together a network of parents and teachers so we could deal with these things.

I have a funny story about the resource officer at Loudoun Valley one time: He was walking through the high school with the kids and he said, "Hey, we heard about the big parties this weekend. We don't know about all of them but we know about some of them. So, take your chances."

And he was interacting with the kids; he was talking to them - this was on homecoming or some big weekend like that - and getting involved and keeping them informed of what you're hearing. And we did that, and I would encourage you to do that as well.



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Questioner:

I've lived in Loudoun County since 1967 and I've been in Sterling Park since 1977, and last year I had to move from Sterling Park because my neighborhood was no longer safe. There are a lot of us who have moved out: Sterling Park has gone down the tubes. We have people in Sterling Park who said the Sterling community is Hispanic - they said "Sterling Park is ours, the Sheriff's department is not going to do anything about it."

I'm gone. I sold my house of 26 years. I had deputies that I called to my house for noise, public urination: They told me two things. One, "it's a cultural thing so you just have to understand." Or, two, "why don't you move out of the barrio?"

That's not what I wanted to hear from my law enforcement officers.


Sheriff Simpson:

I certainly hope not. That's the kind of thing I need to know about, if somebody's telling you something like that. I can't imagine ... but if somebody's telling you that I need to know about it. I can't fix something if I don't know it's broken.

Questioner:

How do we tell you?

Simpson:

Call my office. We try very, very hard to get the job done out here, to deal with these types of issues. That's a big part of what community policing is about - not just taking a report but taking ownership of a problem and dealing with the problem, trying to find out what the solution is. We're trying to work it out, and I'm encouraged by the board candidates talking about trying to do something with the local government when it comes to zoning issues and things that we can't always take care of from a law enforcement perspective, things that need to be dealt with at that level. So I'm encouraged by those commitments to help us do the right ting out here.

Now if somebody's telling me something like that: that's wrong, that's very wrong, and it's the kind of think I need to know about right away and I can deal with it.


Questioner:

We've always had deputies tell us, about the panel trucks that are not supposed to be parked on the street, the deputies tell them to put it in the driveway - then it becomes a zoning problem. And then when zoning starts to deal with it they move it back out on the street. It's a game.

Other questioner:

And there are no tickets - look in Sugarland - they park them all over Sugarland and no tickets are written.

Other questioner:

They go for months, sitting on the street.

Sheriff Simpson:

Ok, that's where the traffic hotline comes in handy - they do follow up on this stuff. When we get the complaints coming in they do follow up on this.

Other questioner:

Well it's kind of hard to believe that when the same truck sits there week after week. I've personally called the Shriff's department four or five days in a row on the same vehicle and it still sits there ...

Simpson:

Ok, before we leave out of here let me get that information and I'll find out what's going on.

Other questioner:

Why don't you just drive through Sterling Park and start ticketing the vehicles that are parked on the streets? Why do we as citizens have to constantly call the Sheriff's department? Why don't they just drive through the Park and ticket them and tow them out?

Other questioner:

It's not just in the Park; it's Magnolia too. Magnolia's a big problem. Cars for sale ...

Other questioner:

And then you hear rumors that Loudoun County cops are getting out of being cops in the County and want desk jobs because they don't want to be on the streets. They're afraid to be on the streets. You hear that. You hear that ...

Sheriff Simpson:

That's not something I've heard.

Questioner:

It's out there. It's out there and I believe it.

Other questioner:

You have to live in Sterling Park to realize what we're going through. We're frustrated. We've turned to law enforcement, we've turned to the board of supervisors, and everybody points fingers in the opposite direction, and if all else fails point to the federal government. Well this is our community, and we want it to be functioning and back to what it used to be. Multi-cultural? Fine. But let's everybody follow the laws. And listen to us ...

Sheriff Simpson:

I agree, and I'm not saying we're not listening. We're doing the best we can with what we have to work with. We need resources. The building and zoning people need resources. It's a big problem. There's only so much that we can do by ourselves.

Other questioner:

The first thing is to recognize it as a problem. We can't seem to get neither the federal government, state nor local governmentto recognize that it is a problem ...

Sheriff Simpson:

Well, I know it's a problem - it's a very big problem. We've had people who have been arrested and have been deported before, and are back here again.

Questioner:

Look at what the state legislature just did: They don't recognize that it's a problem, even though we go up there and bang on their doors. They refuse to recognize it as a problem.

Simpson:

I know, and from a law enforcement perspective I work on these different committees to try and get legislation changed to make it easier for us in law enforcement to have more teeth to deal with some of these things. We beat our heads against the wall every day as well. Besides, we're working hard out here and committed to doing the best we can with what we've got. I know that if we take some of these people in who have not committed some type of major criminal offense, ICE isn't going to take them. What are we to do with them? I have absolutely nothing I can do with them.

Greg Ahlemann:

I think it's a matter of leadership, because the deputies that are there in your neighborhoods - it's a trickle down effect. We've got a community policing program that is just for show. You've got community policing officers, and some of these guys are great officers. I love some of the people that I left, I spent ten years working alongside of them. But you've got some of them that are great officer, but they're responding to traffic complaints, and I see some of the community police officers sitting out on Sterling Boulevard addressing that. That's not what community policing is. I was in traffic. A community policing officer, instead of just for show, needs to be in touch with these other people. He needs to say to the traffic unit, "hey we've got a problem with speeders here, now you go handle it."

And when you've got problems in your neighborhood - it's not just one officer's responsibility. Let's have some accountability. Let's have that officer - you tell them that's a problem area, and he gets with every unit that's assigned to that sector and they start dealing with it aggressively. If we just sit up here with lip service - "we've got this planned, we've got this program" - obviously it's not working. We've tried it for 12 years now and it's only gotten worse.

And it's a matter of leadership, is what it comes down to. And I think we've gotten used to just accepting the same old way of doing things.


Other questioner:

I have some comments that I think are important to speak to. What's coming down here is the federal "guest worker program" or amnesty bill. And it's important that you all get in touch with your congressmen and senators, because if this goes through - and with the chain migration issues that we now have in this country, and we grant de facto amnesty to people - there are going to be millions more people, millions more poor people, coming into this country. It's going to continue to have a negative impact.

Second issue is, we have two border patrol agents that are in prison now, they got 10 and 11 years, and I urge you to call the White House. President Bush really hasn't done the job on immigration - he's an open borders guy. These two border patrol agents are in prison. One just got beat up in prison because he shot an illegal who had 700 pounds of marijuana coming into the country. This is just outrageous that Bush will not give them a pardon.

We are being sold out by both parties at the national level, and even at the state level we're being sold out.

I was at a conference recently and it dealt with the association of government accountants, and there was someone there who was the executive director of the national governors' association. And after he got done lamenting the fact that the fed wants to push more and more responsibility on the states who don't have the money for a lot of programs, including Medicaid, I said "what's the governor's position on this?" He said "we can't get a consensus."

And that's because, for the most part, the Democrats want the cheap votes and the Republicans want the cheap labor. And unfortunately if people want to mute people they'll say you're anti-ethnic or you're a racist, which is all craziness. This gets back to how many people do we really want in America legally, versus illegally? I say, give them a hearing and then they've got to go.

And then you've got start fining the employers big time. You talk about the landscaping businesses, you talk about the restaurants. You talk about the number of people, individuals, who hire illegals for day labor because they can save a few bucks.

Because the real cost is on all of us. One of the costs that was not mentioned specifically tonight is the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on prison time and what's being spent on housing these folks. And what are we going to do about it? The courts are against us, there's no doubt about it. So I'm urging people to constantly badger, in this case, Senator Webb. Senator Allen ran a very poor campaign, but one thing he wanted to address was the illegal alien problem. I don't see Senator Webb being in that same mode, but you may want to check with him because this amnesty bill or guest worker program, whatever you call it, is going to have serious ramifications for all of us. Most of us will be dead and gone in 30 years, but our kids are going to really pay the price.


Geary Higgins:

You're right on the money, and we need to work with our state and federal officials and keep the heat on them. From a personal perspective, I support building the fence that they supposedly funded; amnesty is not the answer - amnesty has not worked and it will not work. If we enforce the laws, as Phyllis said there are laws against not paying social security, not paying taxes, not paying workers comp - you start enforcing these laws the people will go back home. As far as a guest worker program: Let's enforce the laws first, and see if that's necessary. If necessary then maybe it's something we should talk about. But in the meantime we need to enforce the laws, and basically it's for our own national security and sovereignty.

One other thing I'd like to respond to - and I'm not a Sheriff and I'm not a Sheriff's candidate - one of the things I've read about, which is going to take funding from the board of supervisors, is the city of Charleston, South Carolina, which had a real problem with crime. And what they did was they took the police officers out of their cars, and walked the neighborhoods, and they knew what was going on, and knew who was not supposed to be there, and they really nipped the crime problem in the bud.


Robert Bruton:

(to questioner) I think you and I have corresponded by e-mail a few times. I appreciate your activism; I would encourage you to participate in the Republican convention - not just at the local level but at the national level. You're absolutely right: It is a failure by both parties. When the first thing an illegal immigrant does is come across the border, he breaks the law. It establishes a pattern that continues when they move here.

There is another side of this that needs to be addressed, and that is the huge cost, the social cost. When fathers come over here they abandon their wives and children - they send back a check but it's causing huge problems in Latin America. We have tens of thousands of children of illegal workers here that no longer have a father in the household, and we all know the social cost of not having a father around. It's been tremendous. There was an article, I think in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, talking about the impact it's had on Brazil and Mexico and some of the other places from where we have a lot of workers here.

What we need is an immigration policy that brings families here together legally, after they've been screened, after they've been found that they can support themselves. But the president's policy of having a general amnesty was a mistake and I hope that in the next few years with the Democrats that we can begin to address that.


Questioner:

One of the stories that was in the Post recently was on NAFTA, the negative impacts of NAFTA, and apparently chickens will be cheaper to send down there when the last parts of NAFTA kick in, and it's going to have a negative impact on the chicken farmers of Mexico and they're going to go out of business and they're going to come up here.

And these are some of the issues ... everybody's trying to do their day in, day out job, raise their family, spend some time at home, and it's hard to keep up. But that's another issue, our trade policies, and what's going to be the negative impact of globalization and in this case NAFTA, and the impact on chicken farms in Mexico. If they fold up, what do these folks do?


Joe Budzinski:

It is indisputable that the problem of illegal immigration is not about getting people out of town; the problem is a big one and it has to do with issues beyond just local issues. It has to do with trade policy - NAFTA was probably a huge mistake although certainly Mexico advocated for it and it has to do with a number of globalization issues that we basically don't have any influence on whatsoever. If you get involved with groups like HelpSaveHerndon and HelpSaveLoudoun, you can start to make a difference at the local level. And those kinds of changes will percolate up. Eventually, the people at the top will pay attention. If local communities lead, the national "leadership" will eventually follow.

And that's what we're trying to do with our groups. We just went through a legislative session in Virginia, which from an immigration enforcement standpoint appears to have been an unmitigated disaster, but has at least set a voting record by which we can judge some of our local candidates who are coming up for re-election in 2007, and it also gives us some standards to judge those who would represent us in Richmond and at the local level in November. So that's what we'll be working on. We try to make a difference here, then maybe we can make a difference with the chicken farmers in Mexico.

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1 Comments

E G said:

HB 570 sheriff. You have everything you need.

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