State Lawmakers Should Focus on Medicaid Expansion, Not Criminalizing Immigrants and Refugees
Richmond, VA — Today, House Republican lawmakers failed to override Governor Ralph Northam’s veto of HB 1257, hateful legislation that criminalizes Virginia’s immigrant and refugee communities. The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) finds it shameful that conservative members of the House of Delegates chose to spend part of the day debating HB 1257, instead of focusing on important issues like passing a state budget with Medicaid expansion.
“The disdain for immigrant communities from conservative lawmakers is no more evident than it was today, as lawmakers chose to spend time reviving a hateful message to our communities that serves no effective purpose other than to create fear and spread misinformation about our communities and families. We didn’t stand for it when it was introduced and we’ll continue to fight back against these discriminatory policies for as long as it takes,” said Margie Del Castillo, chair of VACIR’s state policy committee. “No lo defendimos cuando se introdujo y continuaremos luchando contra estas políticas discriminatorias por el tiempo que sea necesario.”
Republicans in the House of Delegates were unable to get the two-thirds majority necessary to override Northam’s veto of HB 1257, a bill that he rejected on April 9. The General Assembly is back in Richmond for a special session to finish work on the state budget.
In a press statement issued after vetoing HB1257, Gov. Northam said, “This legislation would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.”
VACIR applauds Gov. Northam’s veto and his concern for the well-being of Virginia’s immigrant and refugee communities. If enacted, HB 1257 would make Virginia a hostile place for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents by forcing localities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Trump’s deportation force. HB 1257 undermines community policing efforts and public safety by making immigrants and refugees afraid to contact the police to report a crime, which could lead to investigations of their immigration status.
Immigrants and refugees are Virginians who contribute to their state by paying taxes and creating their lives here. Every Virginian deserves to live in a safe community without living in fear of having their families ripped apart and having their lives upended. The Commonwealth should work to uplift immigrant and refugee communities, not attack them.