Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Virginia and the Immigration "debate"

I put debate in quotations above because I do not see the shouting match that is taking place in the U.S. as a debate--it is simply a group of politicians, in many cases siding with nativists, who are looking for ways to enhance their political careers and ride the immigration wave.

Take Corey Stewart, for example.  Mr. Stewart has made he entire career on the backs of immigrants in Virginia.  His latest shenanigans was an attempt to proposal immigration legislation at the state level.  Never mind that 1) he's not a member of the general assembly and 2) not eligible to introduce legislation.  Even more significant here is that the alleged newspaper (Inside NOVA.com) that reported this didn't even bother to mention that Mr. Stewart is simply doing with he does best: blowing steam in an attempt to capture media attention.  Mission accomplished.

The latest news from Virginia comes from our state Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli.   Mr. Cuccinelli has been following Mr. Stewart's lead, and has issued a legal opinion that authorizes law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police officers for any reason.  Unlike Mr. Stewart, this is something that our state AG can do, although to what effect is still in question.

The opinion basically states that Virginia law enforcement is  authorizes to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police officers for any reason.  

Gov. McDonnell may codify Cuccinelli's opinion as an executive order.  Local jurisdictions may adopt ordinances based on his opinion, but they may not.  Either way, Cuccinelli's opinion will likely be challenged in the courts.

What is of concern here is the effect that Mr. Cuccinelli's opinion will have on the Commonwealth.  Do we really want to tie up our local law enforcement digging into the immigration status of everyone who gets pulled over for speeding?  Is our fair state so crime-free that we don't need police officers to do what they were hired to do, which is find and apprehend criminals?

Let's put aside the fact that this move, if enacted, is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.  What will be the effect on the hundreds of thousands of LEGAL IMMIGRANTS in Virginia?  What about their civil rights?

Even if his opinion is met by a collective yawn from law enforcement, Mr. Cucccinelli has gotten what he wants: national publicity.