Lawmakers throughout Virginia have been considering legislation that would ban sanctuary cities in the state. The House of Delegates pushed the bill to the Senate with a 7-6 vote from a committee within the House.
The bill was introduced by Delegate Ben Cline, a Republican from Rockbridge and it is known as House Bill 1257. If the bill is voted into law, it would prevent local governments from establishing sanctuary cities in Virginia.
“Sanctuary cities are cropping up all over Virginia and the rest of the country and provide much-needed protection to immigrants,” James O. Hacking, III, of Hacking Law Practice, LLC, said. “Seeking sanctuary in the United States can help victims avoid persecution and abuse in their home countries.”
The bill would also require local governments to cooperate more with federal law regarding immigration, going as far as creating more of a cooperation between local governments and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The House of Delegates almost voted down the legislation due to a tie vote. A second vote was conducted and passed 51-49, which moved it to the Senate Committee on Local Government.
Proponents of the bill are concerned that gang members would be protected from deportation if sanctuary cities were to be legalized and created in Virginia. Those who have spoken out in favor of the bill have specifically mentioned the presence of the gang known as MS-13.
In response to the discussion of gangs, Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan, of Richmond, said “this bill is not about MS-13, although I know that is what gets trotted out all the time as the boogeyman. This bill sends a message to certain people: ‘You’re not welcome here.'”
She continued, saying that the bill was created to send a message. McClellan noted that there are laws already on the books in Virginia that help identify the immigration status of people imprisoned.
Virginia’s current Governor, Ralph Northam, has spoken out publicly against the proposed legislation. His predecessor, Terry McAuliffe, vetoed similar legislation last year when it came across his desk. Governor Northam has said that sanctuary cities have not been a problem in Virginia but did not elaborate any further on his opposition to the bill.
Hopefully, legislators can stop this bill from becoming law. If not, it will likely have disastrous effects for the protection of those fleeing violence in their home countries. This legislation can force individuals to suffer the human rights abuses they are trying to flee.
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