By Dena Potter
RICHMOND (AP) - Senators began chipping away yesterday at legislation against illegal aliens passed by the House, but they voted in favor of a measure aimed at cracking down on undocumented aliens who commit crimes.
The Senate voted 35-5 in favor of the bill by Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, to require jail officers to check the immigration status of inmates who were born outside the United States. The legislation is similar to a measure passed by the Senate.
Other House illegal-alien proposals didn't fare as well, with the Senate either watering down or killing bills that would require people who want to change their names or apply for marriage licenses to provide proof of citizenship.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-7 in favor of a bill to require proof of Virginia residency in order to change one's name. The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis Jr., Accomack Democrat, originally would have required proof of citizenship.
A measure by Delegate Edward T. Scott, Culpeper Republican, to put in Virginia law a federal statute requiring court clerks to record the Social Security numbers of those applying for a marriage license failed on a 8-7 vote in the same committee. It would have required clerks to deny a marriage license to anyone unable to provide a Social Security number.
Republicans argued Virginia shouldn't send the message that federal law should be ignored. In 1996, Congress began requiring states to record the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of each party applying for a marriage license.
Democrats said the federal law may be unconstitutional " that the federal government has no right telling states what to require for a marriage license. Plus, they said, Virginia's actions won't change the status of the federal law.
"Adding state law doesn't make a federal law stronger or lesser," Sen. John S. Edwards, Roanoke Democrat, said. "It doesn't say that the clerks aren't to follow federal law, but there's no requirement that we just rubber-stamp federal law in our code."
As the issue of illegal aliens has heated up, the Senate and House each passed measures that would deny bail for those in the country illegally and to allow businesses to lose their licenses if the owners are convicted of hiring illegal aliens.
The House went even further, approving proposals to ban illegal aliens from attending public colleges and universities and to prohibit discrimination lawsuits against employers who fire a worker for failing to speak English.