By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND, Va.— I knew it was going to be a long day waiting outside Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.
So, making sure I had plenty of protein bars and water, I arrived at the lobby on the floor of the governor’s office in the Patrick Henry Building at 7:55 a.m. on Monday, intent on waiting until I had some response from the governor’s press team on the governor’s plans for unaccompanied and undocumented minors in Virginia.
McAuliffe won’t say a word on the border crisis now — no matter how many requests for comment Watchdog.org and other organizations make.
People hoping for a response on the immigration issue can call the governor’s office at 804-786-2211, tweet @GovernorVA, @TerryMcAuliffe, @BrianCoy, @rachel_r_thomas, @Bhavnasty, and @jamieradice, and write letters to the Office of the Governor, Third Floor, 111 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
But McAuliffe is probably regretting a comment he made on the radio seven years ago.
Last summer, Politico recounted an interview on California public radio in 2007, when the then-Democratic National Committee chair said, “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we all agree you’ve gotta shut the borders down; people who are coming into this nation, taking our jobs.”
As Watchdog.org reports about undocumented children housed in some parts of the commonwealth, I have asked for the governor’s two cents on how he plans to tackle the issue, and find out when he will publicly address the border crisis. After all, “immigration/illegal aliens” now tops the list of Americans’ concerns, according to a recent Gallup poll.
In December, McAuliffe told a room full of reporters he had a “vision for transparency, of working closely with the media to get Virginians the information they need.”
But since the governor and his press team have failed to respond to Watchdog.org’s repeated requests for that information, I saw little choice but to wait in the lobby of the governor’s office. McAuliffe was attending an LGBT rights event in Washington, D.C., President Obama, but I hoped one of his many press secretaries had five minutes for me.
I checked in with the front desk, told the receptionist I was waiting for someone from his press team, and took a seat. She said they were in meetings all morning, and that Jamie Radice, communications director for the governor’s office, said I could email her. I did — and continued to wait for someone on the team to find me in the lobby.
Finally, a little after noon I spotted Rachel Thomas, traveling press secretary for the governor, and caught up with her before she walked back into the key fob-required office door.
I introduced myself, shook her hand, and asked my one question: When will the governor be saying something publicly about the border crisis and Virginia?
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any information for you right now. I’m going to have to get back,” she said before turning and heading down the hallway.
I sat back down and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing.
I waited until 4:59 p.m., when a state employee told me they were closing down the reception area and I had to leave. I left one last message with the receptionist for her to pass along to the governor’s press team — that I’m still looking forward to their response.
So, I readied myself for the long drive back to Alexandria, leaving voice messages for two of the governor’s press team members, Brian Coy and Asif Bhavnagri, as I walked away from Richmond’s Capitol District.
The governor’s office has until the end of this week to respond to a request Watchdog.org filed under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act for any records in the governor’s office related to the unaccompanied minors in Virginia.
For now, Watchdog.org will just keep asking the governor and his team to answer to the people of Virginia.
Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau.