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WSLS 10: House advances bill on arrestee citizenship inquiries Print


Created:  Monday, February 13, 2012

Legislation to require citizenship checks of everyone arrested in Virginia is likely Senate-bound after preliminary approval today from House of Delegates, a day ahead of the deadline for each chamber to complete work on its legislation.

Similar legislation has passed the House in years past, but had been killed by a Democrat-controlled Senate. With the Senate now in the hands of Republicans, the proposal, based on existing Prince William County law, stands a chance of passage.

House Bill 1060, sponsored by Del. Richard L. Anderson, R-Prince William, would instruct law-enforcement officers to make citizenship inquiries of everyone arrested for any offense.

It also requires officers finding "probable cause" to believe that the person is not legally present in the U.S. to inform the judicial officer who would decide whether to grant bail.

Democrats and some law enforcement officials object to the measure, saying it could lead to racial profiling and become a costly and unwanted burden for police departments.

"The effect is that it would break up families," said Del. Patrick A. Hope, D-Arlington, calling it "mean-spirited" and an "unfunded mandate on localities."

Republicans note that the legislation would apply equally to everyone, and only those who are accused of committing crimes.

Del. Jackson H. Miller, R-Manassas, said he could not understand Democrats' opposition something designed to deport criminal illegal aliens.

"These people do not belong here in the first place," he said.

House Bill 958, a similar bill sponsored by Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, also advanced. It would require jail officers to make the same citizenship check regardless of whether the person is put behind bars.