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Virginia Governor Vetoes “Sanctuary Cities” Bill

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A bill that would have banned the creation of so-called “Sanctuary Cities” and that narrowly passed the Virginia legislature was vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam, with the General Assembly in April failing to override the veto.

The idea of sanctuary cities has become a hot-button issue in the United States, especially with the current administration’s focus on stopping undocumented immigrants from entering the country. As more and more cities have taken vocal stands against cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in reporting undocumented immigrants, the federal government has threatened to limit funding that these cities receive. That has not stopped many cities from refusing to cooperate with federal agencies, and many have passed ordinances to encourage undocumented individuals not to fear exposure.

A sanctuary city is one that has adopted policies or laws that limit its cooperation with the federal government in the enforcement of its immigration policies. The concept of sanctuary cities has been around for thousands of years, but it came to the forefront of American consciousness in the 1980s when the United States government began refusing asylum to refugees fleeing violence in Central American countries.

One of the main concerns of many cities and towns is that cooperation with federal ICE officials will discourage the undocumented community from using public services and cooperating with police and other law enforcement. “If undocumented individuals believe that they will be immediately turned over to ICE or another federal agency if they are discovered, they will be very unlikely to go to the police if they are in need of assistance, or to cooperate with police on an investigation,” said Virginia Asylum Lawyer Natalia Segermeister, with The Visa Firm of Price Benowitz, LLP. Additionally, these individuals may not seek out medical assistance when needed or contact authorities to report crimes. The decline in cooperation among these populations, especially in larger cities, would be problematic.

Immigration reform continues to be a moving target, and until some type of agreement is reached, undocumented immigrants will continue to run a heightened risk of deportation under the new administration. An experienced Asylum and Deportation Attorney can help if you or a loved one are facing this issue.