Northam vetoes bill to ban sanctuary cities

Published: Feb. 28, 2018 at 6:40 PM EST
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UPDATE (Apr. 9):

Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed a bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly to prohibit the formation of 'sanctuary cities' in the commonwealth.

House Bill 1257, drafted by Del. Ben Cline (R-Va. 24th), would have restricted cities and counties from adopting any "ordinance, procedure or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws."

Currently, no such 'sanctuary cities — or places that limit cooperation between local police and immigration agents — exist in Virginia. This bill would have made sure it stayed that way.

But Gov. Northam argued such a law would take valuable resources away from local and state agencies for federal benefit.

"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 said in a public statement. "It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety."

"Localities have the right to determine whether to expend the resources and voluntarily enter into an agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Police divisions across the Commonwealth have a long tradition of engaging in community policing strategies, and many have determined that it is more important to develop a relationship with immigrant communities in order to keep all of those who live within the locality safe. This legislation would strip localities of that autonomy and force them to divert money and manpower away from their core public safety functions."

"Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across this Commonwealth that state and local law enforcement officials are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged."

However, Cline, in a previous conversation with WHSV, argued sanctuary cities do not encourage better relations between local law enforcement and those living in the country without permission.

"I think they should be worried about being deported. I think that people should not come here illegally and once they're here, they should be deported if it comes to light that they are here illegally," he said.

The bill narrowly passed the House and later the Senate on party lines, with one Democrat not voting.

In Northam's gubernatorial campaign, he told a Hampton Roads television station that he would support a bill restricting sanctuary cities after his opponent used the issue to attack the Democrat.

Cline reminded the governor of that promise earlier this year, saying "I look forward to Governor Northam signing the legislation as he promised he would do during his campaign for governor.”

Cline is among the eight Republicans vying for the chance to run for Rep. Bob Goodlatte's upcoming open seat in the U.S. House.


UPDATE (Mar. 6):

The Virginia Senate has passed a bill aimed at preventing so-called "sanctuary cities" despite veto promises from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

The GOP-controlled Senate voted 21-18 Tuesday to approve legislation that would ban localities from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Republicans said the bill is needed to show that Virginia respects the rule of law and that undocumented immigrants are not entitled to special privileges.

Virginia has no sanctuary cities: a term without a legal definition, but one generally meaning a locality that limits cooperation with federal immigration activities.

Northam and Democratic legislators say the bill sends a message that Virginia is unwelcoming to immigrants.

The House has previously passed a slightly different version of the legislation and needs to accept the Senate's amendments before it goes to Northam.


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.

Introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge,

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.

Voting in favor: Charles Carrico Sr., R-Grayson; Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield; William DeSteph Jr., R-Virginia Beach; Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico; Emmett Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), William Stanley Jr., R-Franklin; and Glen Sturtevant Jr., R-Richmond.

Opposed: Barbara Favola, D-Arlington; Lynwood Lewis Jr., D-Accomack; David Marsden, D-Fairfax; Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William; and Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax.