Virginia Senate passes anti-sanctuary cities bill

Published: Feb. 22, 2017 at 2:13 PM EST
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The Virginia General Assembly has approved legislation that would ban local governments from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The bill, which Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto, is quickly becoming one of the most contentious issues in Virginia politics as President Donald Trump makes moves to deport many of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The GOP-controlled Virginia Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to approve the bill after a contentious debate about what kind of message it would send. A similar version has already passed the Republican-controlled House.

Republicans said it was important for Virginia to show respect for the rule of law by not promoting so-called sanctuary cities. Democrats panned the measure as anti-immigrant, with Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw referencing the Holocaust when speaking against the bill during a floor debate.

Among other actions on immigration, Trump signed an executive order last month to strip funding from so-called sanctuary cities. States across the country have responded, with some moving to limit such communities and others adding protections for immigrants.

Republicans senators said during debate on the bill that the legislation sent a message that no one is above the law.

"Come into this country legally, or please don't come in at all," said Sen. Frank Wagner, who is also running for governor.

Other Republican GOP candidates also expressed support for the measure. The 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election is widely watched as a possible referendum on Trump's first year in office.

Democrats, backed by religious and civil rights groups, blasted the legislation as unnecessary political posturing. Lawmakers said Trump's harsh moves on immigration have frightened immigrants in their districts.

"All we've successfully done here is create an instrument that can frighten young children," said Democratic Sen. Dave Marsden.

McAuliffe has been one of the most aggressive Democratic governors in pushing back on some of Trump's immigration moves. The governor said on WTOP radio that he would veto a recently passed bill that would require law enforcement agencies not to release any undocumented immigrants who have been arrested and are wanted by federal immigration officials.

The governor said he also plans to meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly this weekend to discuss recent Trump's immigration policies.

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 This afternoon, after a lengthy floor debate, the Republican controlled Senate passed HB 2000 by Charles Poindexter (R-Glade Hill) on a party line vote to permanently bar localities from adopting sanctuary city policies. The bill now heads to Governor McAuliffe's desk.

Said Senate Democratic Leader Senator Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), "Currently, there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia. Therefore, there has been absolutely no demonstrated need for a bill like this -- which is sure to be vetoed by the Governor in short order."
Said Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), “Whether it is intentional or not, this is a messaging bill sending a message to immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, that they are not welcome. American citizens are being swept up in ICE raids along with undocumented immigrants. We are better than this as a Commonwealth.”
Said Senator Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax), "The Supremacy Clause already covers this. All this bill does is frighten children."
Said Senator Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), "This bill sends a pretty clear message. It’s a message that we’re hearing a lot these days. This is a policy that isn’t American and it isn’t Virginian. Bills like this run counter to our values.”
Said Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke), “We’re already struggling to adequately fund our state police and now we’re increasing their workload. We do not have the resources to fund this measure, and it is counter-productive.”
Said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), "Whenever our values are under attack - like they are when our colleagues try to pass bills like this - this Caucus will stand up and fight back."
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Ed Gillespie statement on Northam vote for sanctuary cities in Virginia

RICHMOND, VA – Longtime conservative leader, 2014 U.S. Senate nominee, and 2017 Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie released the following statement Wednesday on Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s vote for sanctuary cities in Virginia. Northam voted against House Bill 2000 , introduced by Delegate Charles Poindexter, which would prohibit localities from adopting ordinances or policies refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.

“Lieutenant Governor Northam voted for sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth. Ralph Northam is out-of-step with Virginians who believe that enforcing our nation's longstanding immigration laws is common sense.

“We shouldn't have sanctuary cities in Virginia. Local governments should not be able to ignore federal immigration laws. As governor, I would support and sign Delegate Poindexter’s HB 2000 because it is a reasonable measure to keep Virginians safe and enforce the law.

“I'm the son of an immigrant whose family has seen the blessings of Liberty in this great country. I know we can be a secure and welcoming nation at the same time and can take a commonsense approach to immigration policies."

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