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Anti-immigrant bills fall in Virginia Senate

Anti-immigrant bills that had passed the Virginia House of Delegates failed to advance in the Senate on Wednesday when a special subcommittee on immigration of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed 10 of the 12 bills it addressed.

Jorge Figueredo, the ACLU of Virginia’s director of racial justice and immigrants’ rights, was one of the speakers opposing the anti-immigrant measures.

“The Senate sent an important message to all of Virginia,” said Figueredo, “that we do not tolerate laws intended to infringe on the rights of individuals because of their national origin, race or ethnic background.”

The Courts of Justice subcommittee voted against reporting HB 2332, which would require all state and local police to make citizenship status inquiries of every person taken into custody. This bill was modeled after the controversial Arizona law challenged by the ACLU in federal court last year. That law was struck down as unconstitutional, but the case is being appealed.

The subcommittee also killed HB 1465 for lack of a motion. HB 1465, which passed the House of Delegates on an overwhelming 75-24 vote, would have made Virginia the only state in the nation to deny undocumented students the opportunity to enroll at any Virginia public college, even if they are Virginia taxpayers, even if they pay out-of-state rates, and even if the federal DREAM act were to pass.

“While this is a real victory for equality in Virginia, it is also important to remember that the anti-immigrant sentiment is unfortunately alive and well in the House of Delegates, which passed most of these bills by substantial majorities,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “The work to make Virginia a place where people are treated the same regardless of color or national origin is far from over.”

The subcommittee’s decisions were made before a packed room filled with people from across the state to demonstrate their opposition to the anti-immigrant bills. In addition to numerous individuals and families, also present were representatives from Tenants and Workers, Virginia Employers for Sensible Immigration Policy, Virginia Organizing, Hispanic Community Dialogue, the Catholic Conference, the Arlington County School Board, the Virginia School Boards Association, the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the Virginia Justice Center, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Advocacy Organizations.

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at