Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer consider Employment Authorization Documents evidence that a person is in the country legally. About 20 other federal documents will still be accepted.
The governor acted after a 23-year-old Bolivian national with drunken driving convictions in 2007 and 2008 was involved in a crash that killed a nun and injured two others in her order in Prince William County. Police say Carlos Martinelly Montano was drunk at the time.
Montano had used the form to get a Virginia license even though he faced deportation proceedings, authorities say.
WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., reported Tuesday that a grand jury indicted Montano on a murder charge that could land him in prison for 40 years if he's convicted.
Prince William police chief Charlie Deane last week asked federal authorities to stop issuing employment authorization cards, known as I-766 documents, to immigrants who face deportation. The cards are issued by the Citizenship and Immigration Service arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
An advocate for immigrants said the governor's response was political pandering that ignores what she said was the problem of scant punishment for repeat drunken drivers."The governor should be asking why he (Montano) was released from jail after serving just 20 days instead of the full 364," Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a Richmond-based lobbyist on behalf of immigrants' rights. Montano had been sentenced to a serve a year on his second DUI conviction.
"The real situation here is we're not enforcing our drunk driving laws," she said.
Montano got his I-766 card, in January 2009 as federal deportation actions were pending. He presented the card to the DMV to establish legal presence in the U.S. But he did not have a Virginia license on Aug. 1 when his car slammed head-on into a car carrying three Benedictine nuns on their way to a retreat.
Sister Denise Mosier was killed in the crash. Sisters Connie Ruth Lupton and Charlotte Lange were critically injured.
"We must ensure that documents accepted as proof of legal presence are reliable," McDonnell, a Republican and a Roman Catholic, said in a news release. "Virginia law is clear in the requirement that an individual be lawfully in the United States to be eligible for an identification card or to have the privilege to drive."
Gastanaga said the federally issued cards are not given to illegal immigrants, and that they are merely records information about the bearer's physical appearance such as height, weight, hair and eye color information.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in August advised police across Virginia that they have the authority to ask about the immigration status of anyone they've stopped or arrested. His advisory opinion, which lacks the legal force of a court ruling, would give Virginia officers many of the same powers police in Arizona have under a new law there intended to crack down on illegal immigration.
The American Civil Liberties Union urged police to ignore Cuccinelli's guidance, saying lacks any legal foundation and conjures constitutional conflicts.