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Immigrant-Rights Group Celebrates Failed Veto Override on Sanctuary Cities

Virginia House Republican lawmakers failed to override Gov. Ralph Northamís veto of HB 1257. (Maleka Ali/Twenty20)
April 20, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – During the special session on the state budget and Medicaid, Republicans in the House of Delegates tried but failed to get the two-thirds majority votes necessary to override Gov. Ralph Northam's veto of a sanctuary-cities bill.

Earlier this month, Northam broke a campaign promise when he vetoed HB 1257, which would have prohibited sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth. The immigrant community celebrated, but conservative legislators resurrected the issue during the special session with hopes of overturning Northam's veto.

Luis Aguilar, advocacy and elections manager for the immigrant-rights group CASA, said the effort was all a game of politics.

"Trying to scapegoat immigrants, trying to say that immigrants are criminals, trying to say they shouldn't have basic protections just like everyone else, so that's why we are against this,” says Aguilar. “It's a victory in that sense."

Aguilar and groups such as the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights say lawmakers should focus on Medicaid expansion, not criminalizing immigrants and refugees.

The bill's text was short and direct: "No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws." Aguilar said the policy was filled with hate and the Latino community will remember come election time.

"Not only with the Latino community but immigrants in general, they try to use them for political purposes in this way,” says Aguilar. “They're going to be hit with reality, and that's what happened in 2017 on the House election races in Virginia and will probably happen again in 2019."

In his veto, Northam suggested the legislation would require localities to shoulder the burden of enforcing federal immigration law, either by deputizing local police or by holding people who are undocumented in jails. He called the measure "unnecessary and divisive."

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA