Virginia Governor Northam Vetoes Bill to Encourage State-Federal Immigration Cooperation

By Dan Cadman on March 22, 2019

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed a bill presented to him by the Virginia legislature that would have required state and local enforcement and correctional agencies to communicate with federal officials over the immigration status of their respective detainees and inmates.

Northam asserts that the bill would take away essential freedom from those agencies to make determinations over if/how/when they decide to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He also says it might instill fear in immigrant communities were such a bill enacted into law. Neither argument is sustainable in the light of day.

As regards the first contention, there are already two laws on the books that prohibit state or local agencies from preventing their employees from free and open communication with immigration officials regarding the status of individuals of mutual interest: take a look at 8 U.S.C. sections 1373 and 1644. The fact that state and local governments do, in fact, adopt sanctions laws or policies that preclude their officers, agents, and employees from engaging in cooperative communication does not make it lawful. It's my own hope that at some point the Justice Department will file suit against each jurisdiction seeking to have its rules enjoined, and take the cases all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.

As regards the second, there is absolutely no — repeat, no — credible evidence that state/local cooperation with federal immigration agencies damages trust in immigrant communities. On the contrary, there are many reasons to think that such communities benefit greatly from the expeditious identification, arrest, and removal of the criminals who hide within their midst, while preying upon them. But that only happens when federalism finds its truest expression, through cooperative endeavors that strengthen public safety, not hinder it by repeatedly returning known alien criminals back to the streets after arrest for state or local charges.

So, one wonders, why did Northam veto the bill, after it was passed to him by Virginia's General Assembly? Could he perhaps be trying in desperation to do anything he can to burnish the train wreck of his "progressive" credentials after outrage over his apparent advocacy of infanticide; or his apology-and-walkback for wearing blackface and farcical claim to "moonwalking" a la Michael Jackson, something at which even hardcore progressives scoffed? After all, he knows that the extreme left of his party has pushed hard to obliterate border controls and openly advocates abolishment of ICE. What better way to cozy up to them and curry favor anew?

Hard to say what his motives are, but in issuing the veto, Northam once again proves that both his instincts and judgment are seriously flawed.