An Immigration Middle Ground From VA: Status Checks After Arrest


As Arizona contends with a federal challenge to its new immigration law, Virginia is back in the spotlight over its policies, says National Public Radio. Virginia lawmakers have said they will introduce legislation similar to Arizona’s law next year, following five other states that have already done so. Virginia’s attorney general has issued a legal opinion that allows law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop for any reason. Could this be a way for other states to crack down on illegal immigrants without getting mired in the courts like Arizona?

Prince William County, Va., requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest – considered among the most aggressive policies in the state. Charlie Deane, Prince William County’s police chief for 22 years, says the attorney general’s opinion does not require officers to check the immigration status of everyone that they have reason to believe is illegal. Rather, it authorizes checks only after arrests. That distinction is important. In Arizona, the state wants to make it mandatory for people to carry immigration papers. It also requires police officers to detain people they suspect to be undocumented immigrants. Prince William County’s policy, says Deane, is the most aggressive it can be – without risking lawsuits. “The devil’s in the details of this,” he says. “And we want people who are living in this community to trust the police and feel that they are being treated fairly.”

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