In the heat of the highly contested 2017 Virginia governor's race, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam declared that he would, if elected governor, sign a bill banning sanctuary cities in Virginia. On signing any future anti-sanctuary legislation, Northam said that "If that bill comes to by desk ... I sure will. I've always been opposed to sanctuary cities. [Republican candidate Ed Gillespie] knows that."
He said this despite having cast the tie-breaking vote in his capacity as lieutenant governor that killed an earlier attempt at this legislation.
On April 9, Northam reneged on this campaign promise and vetoed HB 1257, which would have prohibited the establishment of sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The bill's text was only 17 words long: "No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws."
Throughout the campaign, both Northam and his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie continually stressed that Virginia does not have any sanctuary jurisdictions.
However, using resources released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CIS identified both Arlington County and Chesterfield County as having uncooperative policies with ICE. However, neither has so far been targeted by the Department of Justice for unlawfully restricting information sharing by its law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.
Northam's decision is unlikely to be overturned in the Virginia General Assembly given the current political makeup of the body. Knowing that they will not face repercussions from the governor and from Richmond, some Virginia jurisdictions may feel empowered to adopt more aggressive sanctuary policies. We will monitor these developments following the governor's veto.