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New Attack Ad Brings Sanctuary Cities to Forefront of Governor's Race

AP Photo / Steve Helber

Immigration issues remain a flashpoint in American politics as leaders in Washington debate everything from building a wall to deporting immigrants who are here illegally. Now, as Michael Pope reports, it’s an issue that’s stealing the spotlight in the campaign for governor.

“Ayes 20. Nos 20. The chair votes no. The bill does not pass.”

That was the sound of Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam breaking a tie in the state Senate to defeat a bill ostensibly cracking down on sanctuary cities, although critics say it was aimed more at politics than policy. Now Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie is seizing on that moment from February in a new attack ad accusing Northam of voting in favor of sanctuary cities. Bob Denton at Virginia Tech says it’s a clever strategy.

“It certainly plays to the Trump supporters and voters, which are going to be essential for Gillespie specifically because some of the — as we know in terms of Corey Stewart’s supporters or whatever — have some concerns about Gillespie.”

The bill Northam broke the tie vote on essentially said that no local government should do anything that restricts enforcement of federal immigration laws. So far, there are no local governments are doing anything to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws. So Democrats say the law wasn’t needed for anything except teeing up a campaign ad. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says…

“In many ways, though, that’s not the point here. It isn’t that we have a big problem with sanctuary cities in Virginia. It’s that this is an issue that resonates with Republican Party base voters, and Ed Gillespie needs them.”

People define sanctuary cities a variety of ways. If the definition is a city that defies immigration law, then Virginia has no sanctuary cities. If the definition is that a city refuses to detain some immigrants until federal officials can pick them up, Virginia has several of those. But they’re not violating any law by refusing to hold suspects without a warrant.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association 

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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