McDonnell agrees with Cuccinelli on immigration checks, but can't require police action
Gov. Bob McDonnell said he agrees with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's legal opinion on immigration checks, issued Monday, but lacks the legal authority to force local police to check the immigration status of people they stop, despite a request to do so from Del. Bob Marshall.
"I don't have any control over local law enforcement officers,'' said McDonnell (R). "Those are controlled by local board of supervisors and city councils. That's the reporting relationship."
(Read today's story on McDonnell seeking federal immigration training for state police troopers.)
Marshall (R-Prince William), who requested Cuccinelli's (R) legal opinion and subsequently wrote to McDonnell to codify the language in the opinion, agreed that McDonnell has no authority to issue orders to local departments.
But, he said, McDonnell could use Cuccinelli's opinion to direct state police to make immigration inquiries more often.
"In light of the attorney general's opinion of laying down a marker on this, I think the citizens would hope he'd respond to that marker," Marshall said. "I think he would find it welcome among Virginia citizens if he issued some kind of directive -- whether an executive order or something else -- that the state police should be making this a priority. I think that would set very well."
A.E. Dick Howard, a law professor at the University of Virginia and the author of the modern Virginia constitution, also agreed that McDonnell does not have the authority to tell local police to act. Only localities and the General Assembly can do that, he said. But McDonnell could direct the State Police to respond.
But, experts say, if McDonnell required State Police to ask about the immigration status of everyone they stopped, Virginia might run into the same problems as Arizona.
Under Arizona's law, authorities were required to question people who they had a "reasonable suspicion" were illegal immigrants. A U.S. district judge temporarily blocked those sections of the law, which took effect last week.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said troopers are allowed to question the people they stop, but that they do not unless they have a specific reason. For example, she said, if someone's license, registration and insurance do not match.
August 4, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Immigration , Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell
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