A bill to ban sanctuary cities in Virginia advanced to the Senate floor Tuesday on a 7-6 committee vote that split along party lines.
By George Copeland Jr. for Capital News Service
Introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, House Bill 1257 would restrict localities from passing sanctuary policies, which limit cooperation with national immigration enforcement efforts to improve relations with immigrant communities. The legislation would require localities to follow immigration standards set by federal law, including collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
When the bill was under consideration in the House of Delegates, it was nearly struck down due to a tie vote. However, reconsideration led to a second vote, with the bill passing 51-49, sending it to the Senate Committee on Local Government.
Gov. Ralph Northam is opposed to the bill and has said that sanctuary cities have not been a problem in the state; similar legislation last year was vetoed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Sens. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, and Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, voiced concerns over how ICE’s presence would impact future business opportunities, state autonomy and the ability and community trust of local law enforcement.
Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson, who supported the bill, cited the presence of violent gangs in the state including MS-13.
“Without a law such as this,” Carrico said, “if a locality wants to create a sanctuary city, then what you’re doing, in essence, is protecting those gang members from ever being deported.”
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, countered that the legislation is “a message bill.” She said there are already laws to check the immigration status of those jailed or imprisoned.
“This bill is not about MS-13,” McClellan said, “although I know that is what gets trotted out all the time as the boogeyman.” She added, “This bill sends a message to certain people: ‘You’re not welcome here.’”
There were no comments from the public in support of the bill. Among those opposed were representatives from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
“It would increase the policing in our communities, it would make police officers quasi-federal immigration agents, which we don’t want, right,” said Diego Arturo Orbegoso, an immigrant from Peru and a member of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brain Moran cited the “many unintended and even intended” effects of the bill in reiterating the governor’s opposition.