McAuliffe Says No to Expanded Immigration Enforcement in VA

McAuliffe Says No to Expanded Immigration Enforcement in VA
Terry McAuliffe speaks at the ADAMS Center on Feb. 2. He has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s executive order.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will not take part in a federal assistance program designed to expand the government’s ability to enforce immigration laws. In a letter addressed to American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Clair Gastanaga on Feb 16, McAuliffe said he would not bring Virginia into an agreement under the 287(g) clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the act, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers, granting them the ability to perform the functions of federal immigration agents.

“I will not endorse the use of these agreements in the absence of any evidence that they will make our communicates safer,” McAuliffe wrote.

McAuliffe said he shared the ACLU’s concerns about the activities of some members of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He said there were reports of Virginia residents that were targeted without cause by the ICE and asked to produce their immigration papers. He said he reached out to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to find out the agency’s actions within the Commonwealth.

“Throughout my administration, I have advocated to make Virginia a more welcoming and diverse home for all its residents,” McAuliffe wrote. “My administration has advanced this goal without jeopardizing the safety of our citizens.”

The ACLU previously reached out to McAuliffe over concerns with his ability to expand 287(g) agreements following president Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominately Muslim countries. Part of Trump’s order called for the federal government to reach out to state governors to enact new 287(g) agreements, as by law they are the only entity allowed to do so. First enacted during the administration of then-president George W. Bush, these agreements were phased out by Barack Obama. Currently the only existing agreement in Virginia is at the Prince William Regional Jail.

“These agreements hinder, not help the state’s efforts to fight crime,” the ACLU wrote in its letter to McAuliffe. “These agreements would chill this trust within the immigrant communities, adversely affecting all Virginians by limiting the willingness of immigrants to cooperate with law enforcement in identifying those committing criminal acts.”

The group’s letter included more than a dozen signatories from civic leaders across the Commonwealth, including Loudoun NAACP Chair Phillip Thompson. There have been protests in Loudoun and across the country following the ban, which has been halted pending further legal action.

McAuliffe is barred by the Virginia constitution from seeking a second term and will end his four years as governor at the end of this year. As governor he has vocally expressed his opposition to the ban in events across Virginia, including earlier this month at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Sterling.

Both Democrats seeking the governorship, incumbent Lt. Gov Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Periello, have come out against the ban. All four Republicans running, former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, state Sen. Frank Wagner and businessman Denver Riggleman have come out in support of the ban, saying it is a necessary measure to protect American national security interests.