Cuccinelli weighs in on immigration enforcement

It’s settled, according to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – local and state law-enforcement officers in Virginia can ask about the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested.

This is from a legal opinion issued by the attorney general’s office last week to answer a question posed by State Del. Bob Marshall, a social conservative who has made the immigration issue a political issue.

“The official opinion that Virginia law enforcement officers may inquire into the immigration status of persons stopped or arrested simply declares what is existing law,” begins the statement from the attorney general’s office released to the news media on Tuesday on the legal opinion.

“In the context of a legal law enforcement stop or arrest, there is no legal distinction between immigration crimes and any other crime. What a law enforcement officer can and cannot ask in a citizen encounter is the same whether the underlying concern is an immigration violation or a bank robbery.”

The question from Marshall specifically asked about the power of local and state law-enforcement officers to perform background checks in similar circumstances as persons can be questioned pursuant to the controversial new immigration law in Arizona – and also if such powers were extended under state code to local zoning officers and state-park administrators.

The answers from Cuccinelli – yes on the law-enforcement and state-park administrators questions, no on the local zoning officers.

Marshall in a news release Tuesday used the opportunity of the public release by the attorney general to play some more politics with immigration.

“The federal government has abdicated its responsibility to law abiding citizens by allowing illegal aliens who commit crimes to continue to reside in our country. As a result states like Arizona and Virginia have to stand together to do what we can to reduce crime from gangs like MS-13 who are known to recruit out of country and bring new gang members into the United States illegally. In Virginia I hope that allowing our law enforcement officers to check the legal presence of those who are arrested for other crimes will help reduce crime in general,” Marshall said in a statement.

A statement from Adam Sharp, the chair of the Family Caucus of the Virginia Young Democrats, put a decidedly different spin on the Cuccinelli announcement.

“Attorney General Cuccinelli has ripped away the welcome mat for hundreds of thousands of residents of Virginia,” Sharp said. “Law-abiding legal immigrants who are raising families and growing our economy will now potentially have to prove their right to be here every time they interact with law enforcement. Today’s opinion should send a chill through every chamber of commerce in the Commonwealth. The attorney general’s message is clear: Virginia is closed to talent, closed to growth and closed for business if that talent, growth and business isn’t white.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

Keywords: ken cuccinelli immigration, bob marshall immigration, illegal immigration virginia

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