- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

Virginia legislators — who for years have toughened laws dealing with illegal aliens — are at odds over a measure that would essentially allow state troopers to act as immigration enforcers.

A key state senator who controls the fate of the measure said it is not likely to see the light of day, and dismissed it as a “bill that does absolutely nothing.”

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick’s bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Delegates earlier in the session, is up for a hearing in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee this week.

The bill authorizes Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that would give 50 state troopers the ability to detain illegals based on their immigration status.

“The governor clearly already has that authority, and he doesn’t need the General Assembly to tell him to do that,” said Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee. “It’s a message bill, and that’s not a message that I want to send.”

The Virginia Beach Republican said he also opposes the policy because police should be enforcing criminal laws, not civil laws. In addition, state troopers are short-handed as it is, he said.

“The federal government cannot adequately address immigration issues. Why would we do it on the state level?” he asked.

Mr. Frederick, Prince William County Republican, who is the legislature’s only Hispanic member, disagrees.

“It sends a clear message to the governor and to the public that the General Assembly wants something done about the illegal-immigration issue,” he said. “He’s right that the governor can do this already, but the governor hasn’t. The people want us to do something.”

Mr. Kaine, who took office last month, has said he thinks most Virginians are not very interested in immigration issues, compared with transportation, health care or education.

The governor said last week that Virginia taxpayers should not be picking up the cost of the federal government’s shirking its duties.

“The federal government is choosing not to enforce illegal-immigration laws,” he said during an appearance on WRVA radio in Richmond. He also noted national officials should “get up off the couch” and take action instead of leaving it up to individual states.

However, the Republican-controlled legislature in Virginia in recent years has taken several actions dealing with immigration issues, including passing a law that requires a person to be legally in the U.S. to apply for a driver’s license and one that forbids illegals from receiving state benefits such as Medicaid. Mr. Kaine supported both measures.

Mr. Stolle predicted Mr. Frederick’s bill would not pass his committee when it is heard on Wednesday, even though it passed the House 77-22.

Mr. Frederick said he considers the measure a policing tool.

“If I’m working on something, I might not need my hammer, but I would want it in my toolbox just in case,” he said. “Why in the world would we want to not give this tool to law enforcement?”

Hispanic leaders have told lawmakers the bills would hurt Virginia’s economy.

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