RICHMOND, Va. – Advocates for undocumented immigrants are praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe after his promise to veto Republican-backed legislation prohibiting local governments from becoming “sanctuary cities.”
Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority, which advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants, criticized bills passed by the House and Senate on party-line votes this week. The bills state that localities must not restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws and must cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The governor’s spokesman, Brian Coy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that McAuliffe would veto any measure forcing localities to enforce federal immigration laws. Coy said the governor views the bills as “attempts to divide and demonize people.”
Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, praised that statement.
“In the face of attempts from D.C. to divide our communities, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate diversity and remain open and welcoming to immigrants,” Nguyen said.
“People come to America from around the world to seek a better life and flee war, persecution, poverty and so much more. Thank you to Gov. McAuliffe for standing up for every Virginian and pledging to veto these outrageous attacks.”
McAuliffe vowed to veto two immigration-related bills:
- HB 2000, sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would prohibit any city in the state from declaring itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco have promised not to cooperate with ICE in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. The House passed the bill, 66-33, on Tuesday.
- SB 1262, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, would make a sanctuary city liable for “tortious injury to persons or property caused by an illegal alien within such locality.” The Senate approved the measure, 21-19, on Monday.
In defense of his bill, Black said that he believes sanctuary policies serve as a “shield” for undocumented criminals.
“Under this bill, if you have a jurisdiction that’s deliberately gone out to harbor whatever murderers, robbers, drunk drivers – people who are subject to deportation by federal immigration law, and they set up a shield for them to avoid federal law – then the victims who suffer from that policy will have the opportunity to be reimbursed by that locality,” Black said.
Democratic Sen. Richard Saslaw of Fairfax County disputed Black’s statement.
“The reference that all these counties are harboring all these murderers and armed robbers and rapists and the variety – implying that basically that’s what undocumented people are – to put it mildly is sheer nonsense,” Saslaw said.
Black said the intent of his bill is to make sure federal laws are being enforced.
“What it does is, it prevents the situation that is becoming increasingly common throughout the country, where you have localities that say, ‘We don’t care what the federal law says, we don’t like federal immigration law, and we invite people to come here and we’re going to shield you from legal process,’” Black said.
The governor’s statement to veto such legislation comes days after Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, former secretary of the commonwealth under McAuliffe, signed a directive affirming that the Richmond Police Department will not consent to participate with ICE and will not ask suspects and detainees about their immigration status.
“In our interactions as representatives of our city, all employees will focus on the needs and safety of our residents, not on their legal status, and will advocate and promote their wellbeing,” Stoney said in his mayoral directive.
Anna Scholl, executive director for Progress Virginia, said McAuliffe’s promise to veto the anti-sanctuary legislation shows that Virginia will not follow in the footsteps of anti-immigrant policies being put in place by the Trump administration.
“While politicians in D.C. try to slam the door shut on immigrants and refugees, Gov. McAuliffe is clearly standing up to say, ‘You are welcome here,’” Scholl said. “We applaud the governor for rejecting divisive proposals born out of fear that would close our doors to friends and neighbors.”
By Rodrigo Arriaza with Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.