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Senate shoots down immigration bills

Two Senate committees have dispensed with several immigration-related bills in the Virginia legislature.

Six different bills, tied together only by their immigration-related content, were killed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and General Laws Committee last week. All six bills had passed earlier in the House of Delegates.

"We are pleased that the Senate turned back legislation that would have posed serious threats to our immigrant community," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "In a time of such strong anti-immigrant sentiment, many of these measures would have substantially increased discrimination based on nationality."

Three of the killed bills, HB 1618, HB 1970, and HB 2926, would have allowed state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws, much in the way that the Herndon Police Department is planning to do.

Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax) was a sponsor of HB 1970.

"We are a nation of immigrants, and our diverse cultures make us strong," he said in support of the bill. "But it is unfair to ask people who wish to become Americans to follow immigration protocol, while others disregard our immigration laws."

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated in 2000 that there were 103,000 undocumented immigrants in Virginia, while the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., estimates that Virginia currently has approximately 200,000 undocumented immigrants.

HB 2622, which would have made it a felony to harbor an undocumented immigrant, was passed by indefinitely yesterday in Senate committee.

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