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Immigrant Advocates Fight Back In Virginia | News

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Immigrant Advocates Fight Back In Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- Advocates for the immigrant community pushed back today against what they call a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment led by Virginia's governor and attorney general.

Governor Bob McDonnell is working to have state troopers be deputized as immigration agents who will make legal status checks.

"Virginia cannot turn out police into federal agents. Virginia doesn't have the resources to mow the grass next to our highways," said Delegate David Englin (D) District 45.

Englin and others are also angry over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's recent opinion that would give all police officers authority to ask the immigration status of anyone they stop for any reason. Opponents say the AG is trying to circumvent lawmakers because the same legislation failed in the General Assembly.

"You need to do your job as Attorney General and stop legislating from the seat," said Tram Nguyen, with Virginia New Majority.

Most local police departments do not plan to enforce Cuccinelli's opinion. Fairfax county police say checking for immigration status will hurt crime fighting efforts.

Lt. Daniel Gohn with Fairfax County Police said, "It's our responsibility to protect and serve all residents of Fairfax County, no matter what their residential status is. To do that, we need the support of the community."

Nguyen said, "Public safety is at risk when you have that environment of fear."

The Herndon and Prince William County police departments do have the federal 287G program in which police officers are allowed to check the immigration status of people they arrest. But at in other jurisdictions, such as Fairfax, it's only when someone's been arrested and fingerprinted, that that information is sent to ICE and the federal authorities determine if the person is here legally or not.

Virginia law requires all jails in the state work with federal authorities and check immigration status.

Written by Peggy Fox
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com