Virginia Wants an Arizona Immigration Law, But Already Has One

The results of last week's Quinnipiac Poll question on immigration were clear and loud: Virginians want a tough Arizona-style law allowing police to check the legal status of those stopped or arrested.

Almost two-thirds of respondents told the pollster they favored requiring police officers to check the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally, while just 34 percent said they opposed the policy.

But guess what: a 2008 state law requires officers to check every person they arrest to determine whether they're in the country legally.

Virginia long ago mandated checks on arrests and in many other circumstances, including admission to a state hospital, to obtain a driver's license, Medicaid benefits and, in some cases, employment.

“We were pushing the envelope before anyone else was,” Virginia Delegate Bob MacDonnell told Fox News Latino. “I don’t know that we have to do anything else really.”

MacDonnell was elected from a district that includes Prince William county outside Washington, D.C.—an area with a large and diverse immigrant population. The county has a 287(g) program, which allows local police to share information about those they detain with federal immigration authorities.

If Virginia faces a problem enforcing immigration law, MacDonnell says, it’s that the Department of Homeland Security does not keep local authorities informed about which cases referred from his district wind up in deportation proceedings.

“They won’t tell us how many they’ve deported,” MacDonnell said. “This is very distressing.”

There are dozens of checkpoints aimed at weeding out undocumented immigrants in Virginia law, and some go back generations.

But that doesn't stop state lawmakers from pushing for more restrictions, according to the Virginia ACLU's Claire Guthrie Gastanaga.

"We've been at this for a long time," Gastanaga said.

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