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McDonnell presses feds for state immigration-enforcement authority

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Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday the federal government is taking too long to decide whether some Virginia police officers should be authorized to deport illegal immigrants.

Last August, the governor asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to allow a group of 28 select officers to deport illegal immigrants who have engaged in terrorism, committed major drug and gang offenses, committed violent crimes like murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and kidnapping, or found driving while intoxicated.

On Friday, he released a letter he sent last month to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last month, petitioning for speedy approval.

"We have patiently waited nine months for formal approval and the time to act is now," Mr. McDonnell said in the letter. "Virginia meets all the qualifications and has proven to be an excellent partner state and I ask you to approve our application without further delay."

The 2002 Homeland Security Act allowed DHS to authorize state police forces to perform some functions of an immigration officer by entering into what is known as a 287(g) agreement. Without such an agreement, Virginia and other states have no authority to process deportations.

A number of Virginia localities have forged 287(g) agreements with DHS, including the cities of Manassas and Herndon and the counties of Loudoun, Prince William, Rockingham and Shenandoah.

"We must retain the right to remove the most dangerous illegal aliens from our borders, and 287(g) agreements have been approved across the country for that purpose," Mr. McDonnell said. "Virginia must have the ability to exercise this authority statewide."

The General Assembly approved a number of measures aimed at illegal immigration during this year's legislative session, including one requiring large state contractors to check the immigration status of their employees using the E-Verify program.

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