Federici: Don’t scapegoat immigrants

Posted April 17, 2016 /

I applaud The Roanoke Times’ recent coverage of sanctuary cities as it helps demystify the community-policing principles that are at the center of these efforts. I take this opportunity to also congratulate Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his veto on a pair of anti-sanctuary policy bills that came out of the 2016 legislative session.

The nearly identical bills, House Bill 481 and Senate Bill 270, had the goal of forbidding local law enforcement from releasing people from jail if they’ve received a detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The problem with these bills, as Gov. McAuliffe correctly noted, is that Virginia law already leaves it to the discretion of state and local law enforcement officials how to respond to lawful detainer orders received by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Punitive legislation like these anti-sanctuary bills undermine the rights of all working people in our state to trust the police – particularly immigrant women. A report by the Center for American Progress finds that detentions and deportations often separate married couples, leaving single parents — and most often single mothers— struggling to cope with the burdens of supporting their families.

These anti-sanctuary bills were another attempt to scapegoat hardworking immigrants, enrich for-profit detention facilities and promote hate, instead of unity and support for our hardworking families.

Legislation should aim to recognize that state and local law enforcement needs the trust of their communities, including immigrant families. Rather than use sanctuary city as both a catch-all and a scapegoat, let’s pass policies that protect all working families.

Protecting immigrants is just one of the important policies – along with protecting all women against discrimination and racial profiling, promoting equal pay for equal work, raising wages, and having access to health care for all – that can show how Virginia can stand with women to achieve a safer and more prosperous state.

These are the types of policies our legislators should pursue for a better Virginia for all.