A bill to ban “sanctuary cities” in Virginia is on its way to the governor’s desk. However, Gov. Ralph Northam has already pledged to veto the bill.
The bill reads – “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” Although the definition is unclear, the bill would ban “sanctuary cities” which are generally defined as cities that do not share residents’ information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While some cities have declared themselves as inclusive, no Virginia city is a “sanctuary city” because the state is bound by the Dillon Rule, which states that no locality can have a law that violates state law. In Virginia, everyone who has been arrested has their fingerprints sent to the Department of Homeland Security; all localities must abide by this automatic information sharing.
“This bill undermines community policing efforts and public safety,” said Gustavo Angeles, community organizer for New Virginia Majority. “It makes immigrants fear that contacting the police to report a crime will make them and their loved ones vulnerable to investigations of their immigration status. This type of legislation stokes fear and xenophobia and weakens our communities.”
Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, acknowledged that Virginia does not have any “sanctuary cities,” but said that this bill puts Virginia in line with federal policies and would prevent localities from making these types of laws in the future.
“This bill implies that there is a problem, and there isn’t,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria.
Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Alexandria, said that the bill is just not needed and it targets and antagonizes a specific, growing population. Sen. John Edwards, D-Giles, chimed in by saying that the federal government has exclusive authority over immigration policies, and it’s not a state issue.
The bill passed the Senate, 21-18.
“There are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, and this is a solution in search of a problem,” said Charlotte Gomer, a representative from the governor’s office. “We should support state and local law enforcement with the resources they need rather than deputizing them to take on the duties of federal immigration agents.”
Last year, a similar bill was vetoed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, citing that the legislation does nothing more than send a hostile message to the immigrant communities across Virginia.
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