McDonnell requests immigration powers

By Anita Kumar
Thursday, August 12, 2010; 3:56 PM

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) sent a letter this week officially asking U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to allow state troopers to act as immigration and customs agents. Read the letter.

McDonnell has spent months trying to reach an agreement with the federal government behind the scenes to train and deputize troopers to make legal status checks and refer individuals for deportation. The superintendent of the Virginia State Police, Virginia secretary of public safety and McDonnell's chief of staff have met with federal officials.

"A partnership of this nature will serve to improve public safety, while providing more resources to an underfunded and understaffed federal agency in the fight against criminal illegal immigration,'' McDonnell said. "The federal government is clearly responsible for border security and immigration law enforcement in this country. However, section 287g of the amended Immigration and Nationality Act wisely permits state and local assistance in that enforcement. Virginians want to see our laws enforced and our communities kept safe and secure."

McDonnell, a former state attorney general, helped several localities, including Prince William County, enter into similar agreements. He also repeatedly pressed former governor Tim Kaine (D) to ask the Bush administration to enter into agreement with Virginia, but Kaine refused.

The Obama administration has declined to issue the so-called 287g agreements to some states in the past. "The Obama administration has a very different view from the Bush administration,'' McDonnell said last week.

Richard Rocha, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has said he could not comment on pending applications.

Twenty-six states, including Maryland and Arizona, and eight localities in Virginia, including Herndon and Prince William and Loudoun counties, have the so-called 287 (g) status that deputizes local law enforcement.

On behalf of Prince William's police department and sheriff's department, Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, sought and received 287g status in 2007 and 2008. Since July 2007, officers' work has helped lead to the deportations of nearly 3,000 people.

In recent weeks, the issue of illegal immigration has returned to the forefront in Virginia. Opponents of illegal immigration have felt emboldened because Arizona legislators passed a tough new law.

The Virginia State Police has 1,800 sworn agents. It's unclear how man would be deputized.

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