RICHMOND, Va. (Feb. 14, 2017) – Today, a Virginia Senate committee killed a bill that would have prohibited so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with enforcement of some federal immigration laws.
A coalition of 10 Republican delegates sponsored House Bill 2000 (HB2000). The legislation would have prohibited any local government from implementing sanctuary city policies.
“No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”
After it passed the House 63-33 on Feb. 7, the Senate Local Government Committee voted 6-6 on the measure. One senator was absent. Since it did not garner a majority vote, HB2000 died in the committee.
Some U.S. cities, and the state of California, have refused to participate in a narrow segment of federal immigration enforcement. In all of these situations, government and law enforcement agencies in these cities don’t actively stop ICE from enforcing immigration laws. However, in a narrow sense, they simply don’t provide any support or assistance to federal agents. These cities leave it to the federal government to enforce federal law.
Non-cooperation with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states or their political subdivisions to help implement or enforce any federal act or regulatory program.
It would appear that Pres. Trump recognizes this as well. In his Jan. 25 Executive Order on “sanctuary jurisdictions,” he acknowledges that his policy of having state and local agents act as interior federal immigration enforcement will be done “with the consent of State or local officials.”
HB2000 would have been a constitutional way to force cities in Virginia to help enforce immigration laws. The federal government cannot do it do it. But if a state decides it wants to spend its time, money and resources assisting the federal government, they can certainly make that choice.
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