Monday, August 2, 2010

Virginia Attorney General Rules Police Can Check Immigration Status

In this Nov. 3, 2009, photo, Ken Cuccinelli waves at his victory party in Richmond after being elected state attorney general.
In a decision that could lay the groundwork for an Arizona-style immigration policy, Virginia's attorney general said state law enforcement officers are allowed to check the immigration status of anyone "stopped or arrested."

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued the legal opinion Friday extending that authority to Virginia police in response to an inquiry over whether his state could mirror the policies passed into law in Arizona.

"It is my opinion that Virginia law enforcement officers, including conservation officers may, like Arizona police officers, inquire into the immigration status of persons stopped or arrested," he wrote.

The decision comes after a federal judge blocked Arizona from implementing its provision that would require law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Cuccinelli's ruling could justify that kind of policy in Virginia. However, Cuccinelli reiterated in the opinion a prior finding that while state officers have the authority to arrest suspects on criminal immigration violations, they are advised against arresting over civil immigration violations. Overstaying a visa would fall under the latter category.

The state's top attorney wrote the opinion in response to a question from state Del. Bob Marshall, who represents Prince William County.

Marshall's county implemented a law that requires police to check the immigration status of everyone they arrest -- but not everyone they come in legal contact with.