Monday, June 21, 2010

County Leader In Virginia Pushes To Follow Arizona's Immigration Law

MANASSAS — The chairman of Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors is calling for a statewide law to crack down on illegal immigration in Virginia, similar to a controversial Arizona measure.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart, an at-large Republican, is calling on state lawmakers to pass the Virginia Rule of Law Act, which would allow police to make arrests without a warrant if they have “reasonable suspicion” a person is in the country illegally. It would also allow them to break up day laborer centers and prohibit solicitation on all public roads.

“We need to bring the rule of law to all of Virginia,” Stewart said. “As long as the federal government shows no interest in securing the border and no interest in internal enforcement to promote self-deportation, then states and localities will have to pick up the slack.”

Prince William’s own law on illegal immigration requires that police officers inquire about the immigration status of all people arrested on suspicion of violating a state or local law. The Arizona law, signed in April, gives police wide latitude to check the residency status of anyone who they have “reasonable suspicion” is an illegal immigrant.

A spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell said the administration will review the proposal.

“The governor is a strong proponent of reforming our current immigration system to ensure that the laws of this nation are obeyed and upheld, and lawful immigration is encouraged and facilitated,” spokesman Tucker Martin wrote in an e-mail.

Nancy Lyall of the immigrant advocacy group Mexicans Without Borders called the proposal “irresponsible.” There’s a need for reform, Lyall said, but it should come from the federal government.

“This type of legislation targeting people who have been a productive part of society for most of their lives is just unheard of and unjust,” Lyall said.

Stewart said he is pursuing the issue now because the 2011 General Assembly session is the last before statewide House and Senate elections next fall, he said. He plans to choose a sponsor for the measure in the House of Delegates and the state Senate in the near future.

“I am very hopeful about it,” he said. “I think if it’s ever going to pass, this is the time.

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