Governor Northam today vetoed Senate Bill 1156, which would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. The Governor’s veto statement is below.
March 19, 2019
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, and after consulting with law enforcement and local stakeholder groups, I veto Senate Bill 1156, which imposes an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
This legislation would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.
Localities have the right to determine whether to expend the resources and voluntarily enter into an agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Police divisions across the Commonwealth have a long tradition of engaging in community policing strategies, and many have determined that it is more important to develop a relationship with immigrant communities in order to keep safe all of those who live within the locality. This legislation would strip localities of that autonomy, and force them to divert money and manpower away from their core public safety functions.
Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across this Commonwealth that state and local law enforcement officials are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged. The safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable reporting criminal activity and cooperating with local law enforcement investigations. This bill would make it harder for the men and women who keep us safe to do their jobs.
There are many actions we can take to support law enforcement and keep Virginians safe. Placing new unfunded mandates on state and local public safety agencies in order to make a political point is not one of them.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Ralph S. Northam