Virginia Gov. Northam vetoes bills pressuring local law enforcement to act as immigration agents

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday vetoed two bills that together would have obligated local law enforcement in Virginia to assume roles typically associated with federal immigration agents.

“This legislation would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies,” Northam wrote. “It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.”

Together, the two bills intended to bar Virginia localities from restricting the powers of federal immigration officials while obligating local law enforcement to notify them when illegal aliens were released from Virginia jails.

Northam’s veto mirrors the statement he issued last year when the bill was previously introduced.

“There are many actions we can take to support public safety and keep Virginians safe. Eliminating local discretion and impeding local decision-making are not appropriate options,” Northam wrote in a press release regarding HB 2270. “Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across the Commonwealth that our public safety agencies are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged.”

Intended to dissuade “sanctuary cities,” SB 1156 narrowly passed Virginia’s Republican-controlled House and Senate along party lines.  While lacking a legal definition, the term “sanctuary city”  has come to define jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials in an effort to protect low-priority, non-violent immigrants from deportation.

“Local and regional correctional facilities have, and should retain, discretion to determine how they choose to engage with federal immigration agencies,” Northam wrote in his veto. “This legislation impedes decision-making by administrators of these facilities by eliminating that discretion.”

 

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