Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) strongly criticized the federal government Wednesday for turning down Virginia’s bid to have state troopers enforce federal immigration law.

Andy Hernandez, carrying a Mexican flag, and Allison Culver, carrying an American flag, argue over SB1070 outside the State Capitol Building in Phoenix, Ariz., Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the law. (Patrick Breen/AP)

Since 2010, McDonnell has sought an agreement with the federal government to train and deputize troopers to act as immigration and customs agents. As state attorney general, he had helped several localities, including Prince William County, enter into similar agreements.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement turned down McDonnell’s 2010 request in a letter sent to state police early this year, but the decision wasn’t publicly disclosed at the time. McDonnell mentioned it when the topic of immigration came up on a radio call-in show Tuesday, one day after the Supreme Court ruled on an Arizona immigration law. He added to those comments Wednesday, when talking with reporters after an unrelated event in Richmond.

“The president has made a series of political decisions over the last year that is actually reducing enforcement in the United States that’s just flat wrong,” McDonnell said. “He’s doing it, I think, because there’s an election coming up.”

In a February letter to state police, Immigration and Customs Executive Associate Director Gary Mead said the agency was no longer taking new requests to train state, local and tribal officers to enforce immigration laws. Mead said that the agency was focusing on “other ICE enforcement programs [that] are more consistent, efficient and cost effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens.”