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Tea Party Says, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’

January 17, 2011

By Alice Kemp and Kayla Wamsley
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than 100 supporters of the Virginia Tea Party gathered at Capitol Square on Monday to rally for states’ rights and property rights and against illegal immigration and mandatory health care.

Tea Party activists from throughout Virginia attended the rally sporting pins with such slogans as “Virginia is for Freedom Lovers,” “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Freedom is Not a Loophole.”

Speakers at the rally urged Tea Party supporters to pressure state legislators to pass bills giving states the power to reject federal laws.

“The federal government seems to be of the notion that they can control every aspect of our lives,” said Donna Holt of the lobbying organization Campaign for Liberty. “This is America. This is not Soviet Russia.”

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House Bill 1438, sponsored by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, would prevent federal regulation of any goods produced in-state and marked “Made in Virginia” as long as they stay within the commonwealth. (It would not apply to products bought by the federal government.)

Mike McLaughlin, a representative for the American Council for Immigration Reform, advocated harsher restrictions on illegal immigration.

“Virginia has 295,000 illegal aliens, it’s estimated,” McLaughlin said. “It costs the state of Virginia about $1.5 billion a year coming out of your state budget – out of your taxpayer pockets.”

Legislators have proposed several bills to crack down on illegal immigration in Virginia. For example:

HB 1421 would require “agencies and political subdivision of the Commonwealth to enforce federal immigration laws to the full extent permitted by federal law.”

HB 1727 would force “public contractors, employers with 15 or more employees within the Commonwealth, and localities to enroll in the E-Verify Program by Dec. 1, 2011.” E-Verify, operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, currently is a voluntary program that determines whether a job applicant is eligible to work in the United States.

HB 1775 would require “the collection of data from all Virginia school districts on the aggregate number of K-12 students whose parents cannot provide citizenship or lawful immigration statuses for them.”

Besides illegal immigration, Tea Party activists also oppose federally mandated health care. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addressed the rally to discuss his legal efforts challenging the federal health care law.

Cuccinelli applauded the Tea Party for supporting the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, which states that no Virginian can be required to purchase health insurance coverage. The General Assembly passed the act last year in response to the federal law mandating that individuals purchase health insurance.

“We are now at one-half of the states in the United States of America that are suing their own federal government as party plaintiffs to protect the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said.

Joe Guarino, chairman of the Richmond Tea Party, was the host of Monday’s rally. He commended Virginia Tea Party members for their attention to those issues.

Guarino said he believes that the federal government is overstepping its boundaries and that it’s up to the people to keep government in check.

“When we saw the excesses and abuses of our government reach intolerable levels over the past few years, we got down to the business of righting this ship,” Guarino said.