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McDonnell downplays injunction issued against Arizona law

Rosalind Helderman

It's too early to do any analysis of the impact of Wednesday's court decision blocking the implementation of the most controversial pieces of Arizona's new immigration law, and efforts to adopt similar measures in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Thursday.

As he has in other recent interviews, McDonnell did not offer a clear answer on whether he believes Virginia should adopt a similar statute, which includes a provision requiring immigrants to carry documentation showing they are in the country legally. Instead, McDonnell noted that Virginia has already adopted legislation that includes some of the same provisions as are contained in the multi-part Arizona law.

"It's too early to get any comment on what's going on out there," McDonnell said on his monthly appearance on WRVA radio's Ask the Governor program. "This is a preliminary injunction by one federal district judge, who hasn't even ruled on the merits of whether it's illegal or not. It's simply a preliminary injunction on four out of the many aspects of the Arizona law. So I say, let's wait and let the legal process work. Regardless of what this judge ultimately decides on the merits, you know it's going to be appealed to a district court, probably the U.S. Supreme Court."

How serious are the national groups that helped get Arizona's law passed about making Virginia their next stand?

Serious enough that Michael Hethmon, general counsel for Immigration Law Reform Institute, which pushed for the law, told Gwen Ifill on PBS' Newshour Wednesday night that he was actually meeting with Virginia legislators interested in passing a state law here when news of the Arizona ruling came down.

"As a matter of fact, I was down in Virginia meeting with Virginia legislators on how to do their version of SB-1070 when we got the bill," said Hethmon, who was arguing that the judge's concerns with the Arizona law could be fixed with minor technical changes. "And it was a sad face when the order came off the machine. And, as we worked through it provision by provision, they were quite relieved."

McDonnell, meanwhile, called it "a very unusual thing" for the federal government to assert that a state law has run afoul of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, the legal argument that's been made by the Obama administration as it has worked to block Arizona's measure.

"This thing has so far to go," he said. "But on the merits, I understand why the people of Arizona are frustrated with crime, with the proximity to the border, with drug distribution on and along the border, with the burdens on law enforcement to police illegal immigration. And the fact that the federal government isn't doing a good job and is tying the hands of local law enforcement. We've got to find a way to do better on that, but we have to find a way to increase legal immigration so everything's above board."

Meanwhile, on the same program, McDonnell also defended a decision to spend a portion of the state's recently announced budget surplus for fiscal year 2009 on a one-time bonus for state employees rather than beginning to pay back money borrowed from the state's pension fund to balance the budget in fiscal year 2010.

His answer came in response to a question from host Jimmy Barrett, who noted that listeners of his right-leaning show have expressed concern about how the surplus will be spent.

"You strike me as a merit-based kind of guy," Barrett said. "And when you're doing across the board type bonuses, it means that people who deserve them are getting them. And people who don't are also getting them. And we do have some debt...Shouldn't the money be used first to retire debt instead of giving people bonuses?"

McDonnell said the state is paying down its debt obligations on a regular basis but employees deserve the bonus, which will consume about $80 million of the state's $220 million surplus for FY09.

"It's called a bonus, but really I call it a cost-of-living adjustment for our state employees who haven't received a raise in three years," McDonnell said. "I think a small 3 percent incentive pay, or cost of living adjustment or bonus or whatever you want to call it is appropriate for our employees who have done a good job."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 29, 2010; 9:51 AM ET
Categories:  Corey Stewart , Immigration , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: Prince William chairman unveils Arizona-like immigration bill


Any similar law will be struck down for similar reasons. Minor changes are not enough.

Posted by: krickey7 | July 29, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

A couple of the court rulings are interesting:
1. Police can not detain a person to check their identification.
2. Immigrants do not have to carry their green cards or visas.

If police stop a car for speeding, if I follow the ruling of the court, they can not ask for the drivers license?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | July 29, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

What Gov. McDonnell had to say, as quoted in this blog entry, was kind of interesting. If I remember he is a lawyer. Yet, he doesn't know that a US District Court's decision gets appealed to a Circuit Court, not to a "district court"? He says the federal judge in Arizona didn't rule on the merits. As a lawyer, does he not realize that for anyone to obtain a preliminary injunction, a court necessarily has to decide that the person seeking the injunction is likely to win on the merits at trial? C'mon Gov., admit it: the heart of this law is likely to be gutted, and you won't be able to enforce something similar here!

Posted by: stodge | July 29, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

So glad to hear our Governor supports measures to expand powers of government to harrass his constituents.

Then again, we can all look favorably on how it generates a jobs program to litigators. So, what do you suppose the Governor does for a living when he isn't Governor?


Posted by: ViennaBelle | July 29, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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