Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Virginia Immigration Review

2010 was a tumultuous year for immigration law across the nation and Virginia was no exception.  The following is a recap of the most interesting immigration happenings in Virginia over the past year.

June -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announces the expansion of the federal Secure Communities immigration program to every Virginia county. Arlington County tries to opt out but are unable to withdraw.

July -- Cuccinelli files an amicus brief in support of Arizona, which was sued by the Justice Department because of its tough immigration laws.  Cuccinelli announces that Virginia law enforcement can inquire as to the legal status of anyone stopped or arrested.

August -- Carlos Montano allegedly kills a nun in a drunk driving accident. After two previous DUI arrests, he had been detained by immigration officials but was released on bond during his deportation proceedings.  Also in August, Governor McDonnell proposes that Virginia join a federal program that would allow Virginia State Police to enforce certain federal immigration laws.

September -- Following the Montano incident, Governor McDonnell instructs the state Department of Motor Vehicles not to accept federal work authorization cards as proof of legal status from those applying for a driver's license. 

December --  State lawmakers introduce numerous bills for the 2011 General Assembly that would toughen the state's treatment of undocumented residents.   One bill, introduced by Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Henrico, would bar illegal immigrants from attending Virginia's public colleges and universities.  Another, introduced by Delegate Dave Albo, R-Fairfax, would requiring local social service agencies to verify the legal status of those applying for public assistance and give the governor the power to withholding funding from those agencies that don't comply.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Private Legislation

Every year, large numbers of noncitizens with compelling circumstances are removed from the United States because their cases do not fall squarely within the ambit of existing immigration laws.  One potential avenue for addressing the shortcomings of current immigration laws on a case-by-case basis, without comprehensive immigration reform, is through the private legislation process.  Private legislation can be used to provide a much-needed remedy which is lacking under existing law in a particular case.

Successful use of private immigration legislation is rare.  Recently, however, Virginia's own Senator Jim Webb sponsored a private bill for the Japanese widow and son of an American Marine killed in Iraq.  Immigration refused to recongize the marriage despite the fact that it had been recognized by the military.   The first successful private immigration bill since 2006, the bill passed the House on Wednesday and now awaits the President's signature.

Read more about the Private Bill here.