Last week, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office released a stinging analysis of Prince William County Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart’s (R) “Virginia Rule of Law” — an immigration policy similar an ordinance Stewart pushed through his own county that he wants Virginia to adopt.
Cuccinelli’s office deemed several provisions of the law “unconstitutional” and “unnecessary.” Despite the fact that the office of one of the most right wing state attorney generals in the country said the “Virginia Rule of Law” goes too far, Stewart doesn’t plan on backing down. The Washington Examiner reports:
“I’ve run up against a lot of opposition on illegal immigration from pro-amnesty and other liberal groups,” Stewart said. “I never expected to be attacked from the rear by another conservative like Ken Cuccinelli.”
The showdown over illegal immigration is pitting two like-minded conservatives against each other over the hot-button issue once again boiling over in Virginia. [...]
Still, Stewart was adamant about expanding the Prince William approach statewide. “Whether it’s Cuccinelli or the pope, I’m not backing down on illegal immigration,” Stewart said. Furthermore, Stewart said, Cuccinelli’s analysis is moot as it did not specifically review the Prince William policy he is now advocating. “Our policy has been in effect for more than two years and has withstood all legal scrutiny,” he said.
Stewart’s characterization of his proposed policy isn’t entirely accurate. Prince William County’s law did not withstand all legal scrutiny. The Prince William ordinance initially required police to check the immigration status “of anyone who breaks a law, no matter how minor.” It was later modified amidst a controversy over its constitutionality to simply direct police officers to check the status of anyone in police custody who they suspect to be an undocumented immigrant. Meanwhile, back in June, Stewart himself boasted that the “Virginia Rule of Law” proposal would go further than the original ordinance passed by Prince William County in 2007. And it does.
Stewart’s proposal makes the transport of undocumented immigrants a class 4 felony. Cuccinelli’s analysis pointed out that the section “creates sweeping new classes of felonies and will have a significant fiscal impact.” Much like Arizona’s immigration law, Stewart also wants to outlaw day labor work. Cuccinelli’s office noted that the “provision is contrary to the Attorney General’s opinion issued in February regarding federal preemption in the area of employment of unauthorized aliens.”
The “Virginia Rule of Law” additionally makes it illegal for undocumented immigrants to buy property. Cuccinelli struck down this provision as well, stating, “[t]he provisions of this section raise significant ex post facto/takings concerns that are not easily addressed through revision or redrafting.” Lastly, Cuccinelli’s office explained that the policy “raises potential equal protection concerns, because it specifically differentiates between United States citizens and other persons in protecting privileges and immunities.”
A Washington Post editorial notes that Prince William County’s immigration ordinance should be approached as a cautionary tale, not a model for the rest of the state. A study released by the University of Virginia last week found that Prince William County’s policy “has not affected most types of crime in Prince William County,” but it has “seriously disrupted police-community relations in the County.” “The County was not able to implement the policy without creating a serious ethnic gap in perception of the police, ratings of the County as a place to live, and trust in the local government; Hispanic opinions on these matters plunged to unprecedented lows in 2008,” concluded the writers of the report.