- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine needs to seek federal authority for some state law-enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws in the course of investigating violent crimes, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said yesterday.

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, challenged Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, to reconsider his decision not to enter into federal agreements that allow state agents to use federal law to civilly detain illegal aliens they encounter during criminal investigations.

Local and state authorities can only hold illegal aliens for up to 72 hours, and then only if they have been convicted of a felony, deported and then returned to Virginia, Mr. McDonnell said. By entering an agreement with the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said, illegal aliens they’ve arrested for crimes could be held until they’re picked up by the Department of Homeland Security.

“Our citizens are calling out for solutions. Unfortunately, the federal government has provided neither the resources nor the manpower to enforce federal immigration laws within … Virginia,” Mr. McDonnell said during a press conference.

The proposal alarmed advocates for immigrant groups who say the measure is unnecessary and creates fear among law-abiding immigrants that distances them from police.

Mr. Kaine said he is concerned about the costs of the state doing the federal government’s work, that it would interfere with the core mission of the state police and possibly undermine effective agreements the state already has in place with ICE.

“I think we have statutes on the books and a partnership with ICE already in place that’s doing the job, so for that reason I say that memorandum is not needed right now,” Mr. Kaine said.

“I don’t want to pick up the budgetary responsibilities that ICE has. That’s a federal responsibility. What we want to do is demand of our federal delegation of legislators that they provide the appropriate funding to anti-immigration activities and not … have Virginia state taxpayers pick up the bill,” he said.

Mr. Kaine isn’t the first governor to dismiss the idea. Former Gov. Mark Warner also declined an agreement with ICE for similar reasons.

Mr. McDonnell said giving state authorities federal immigration-enforcement rights would empower Virginia law-enforcement agencies, not interfere with them, and it would cost the state little.

“I don’t see the great additional burden on local law enforcement,” Mr. McDonnell said at a press conference.

“We can’t keep saying [illegal immigration is] a federal issue and we’re helpless in Virginia to do anything about it because we’re not,” he said.

Several Virginia localities, including Herndon, Prince William County and Harrisonburg, already are exploring agreements with ICE independent from the state, Mr. McDonnell said. State Sen. Jay O’Brien and Delegate Thomas D. Rust, both Fairfax County Republicans, have introduced bills that would clear obstacles in state law that would prevent localities from enforcing federal immigration laws.

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a lobbyist who represents immigrant groups, said Mr. McDonnell failed to convince her of a need for giving state and local authorities federal enforcement powers.

“It creates a fear in the community that distances them from their local police and further damages the faith in the community, rather than enhances it,” she said.

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