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Immigration debate heats up again in Virginia

Wednesday - 2/9/2011, 4:21pm  ET

Hank Silverberg,

ARLINGTON, Va. - There is an effort underway in Virginia to kill 10 bills -- all of which passed the House of Delegates Tuesday but face uncertainty in the Senate -- aimed at immigration.

A number of the bills are modeled after the controversial provisions in the new Arizona law currently being challenged in court, and on the regulations imposed by Prince William County several years ago.

Tram Nguyen, associate director of Virginia New Majority, says one of the bills (HB 2332) -- which would allow local police to check the immigration status on anyone arrested -- is the worst of the bunch.

"If enacted, this type of legislation is an open invitation to biased-based policing and disparate treatment."

The bill is modeled after a three-year old regulation in Prince William County where county officials say they have turned over 3,000 illegal immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement since it was enacted in 2007.

The Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) is also campaigning hard against the bill, according to Chairman Edgar Aranda-Yanoc.

"I am a citizen with my full rights and I can vote. Unfortunately because of the accent I have, I will be targeted with this type of legislation."

Another bill (HB 1465) that passed the House of Delegates would prohibit undocumented students from attending state colleges and universities.

They can legally attend now, but must pay out-of-state tuition.

VACOLAO says that will unfairly punish thousands of young people who came to this country with their parents, often when they were infants, who have made it successfully through public schools.

Other bills on immigration passed Tuesday:

  • A bill that would require school districts across the state to count the number of students enrolled in classes for the English language and count the number of students who did not have a birth certificate when they enrolled (HB 1775).

    Delegate Dave Albo, (R-Fairfax), who sponsored the bill, estimates undocumented students costs Fairfax County $130 a year.

  • A bill that would prohibit municipalities from becoming so-called "sanctuary cities," where local officials would not enforce federal immigration laws.

    Opponents say this bill deals with a non-existent problem in Virginia.

Both the House and Senate have also passed a bill (SB 1049) that will require all companies doing business with the state to prove -- through the federal E-Verify program -- that their workers are all in the United States legally.

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