Flashback: The Illegal Immigration Crackdown Bills that Never Made It

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors grabbed center stage yesterday with its resolution, one of the toughest local ordinances in the country, designed to curtail illegal immigration. But the PWC supervisors weren’t acting in a vacuum. The House of Delegates had laid much of the intellectual groundwork this spring, passing a number of bills — some by broad margins, incidentally, suggesting a measure of bipartisan support — that got killed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

These bills received very little press coverage at the time. I’ve extracted these descriptions from an old press release issued by the Speaker of the House’s office:

HB 1618
Patron: Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-Prince William.
Passed House 69-31, killed in Senate Courts of Justice 11-3.
Provides for the Governor to enter into an agreement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would allow the Department of State Police to enforce civil immigration laws.

HB 1970
Patron: David B. Albo, R-Fairfax.
Passed House 70-28, killed in Senate Courts of Justice.
Provides that any alien who is present in the United States illegally and is removable, as verified by the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 2687
Patron: John S. Reid, R-Henrico.
Passed House 62-37, killed in Senate Courts of Justice 11-4.
Discourages businesses from knowingly hiring illegal aliens by making it an unfair employment practice to knowingly employ an unauthorized alien within the Commonwealth.

HB 2926
Patron: Thomas Davis Rust, R-Fairfax/Loudoun.
Passed House 92-6, killed in Senate Courts of Justice 11-4.
Expands the powers of state and local law-enforcement officials to include immigration powers conferred upon the law-enforcement agency by agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

HB 3130
Patron: Kathy J. Byron, R-Bedford/Campbell.
Passed House 71-28, killed in Senate Finance.
Prohibits the issuance of a business license to any individual who cannot provide legal documents proving such individual is legally eligible to be employed or to work in the United States.

Then there was this bill, which protected immigrants — and passed unanimously in both the House and Senate:

HB 1921
Patron: H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
Passed House 99-0, Passed Senate 40-0.
Protects immigrants by penalizing any person who exhorts anyone by knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing a passport or other immigration document, or other government identification document of another person.

I think illegal immigration could be a sleeper issue in the fall elections.

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9 responses to “Flashback: The Illegal Immigration Crackdown Bills that Never Made It”

  1. Jim:
    As someone who cares about the “rule of law,” I’m sure that you’ll be interested to know that:

    1) HB1618 violates the separation of powers clause of the Virginia constitution which protects the equality of the three branches of government;
    2) HB1970 is unconstitutional under the supremacy clause of the US Constitution because federal immigration law preempts the power of the states to regulate immigration; this makes particularly good sense since foreign affairs are the exclusive province of the federal government under our constititon; and
    3)HB2687 is unconstitional under the supremacy clause of the US Constitution because federal immigration law includes a specific provision preempting the ability of states to legislate additional sanctions on employers for hiring in violation of federal immigration law.

    The House chose to ignore the “rule of law” in passing this politically motivated unconstititonal legislation.

    The Senate Committee heard testimony on Tom Rust’s bill (and a similar Senate proposal) that raised questions about whether the bill was needed. It also heard police testimony that raised serious questions about whether local enforcement of immigration laws is good public policy. In fact, police representatives indicated that they thought that giving them the ability to enforce civil immigration laws would diminish, rather than enhance, public safety. The Crime Commission has a task force on immigration and law enforcement that is reviewing these issues now.

    And, Kathy Byron’s bill was killed in Senate Finance because it would have imposed new and potentially burdensome paperwork requirements only on sole proprietor small businesses in Virginia (not on corporations, limited liability companies or partnerships) without ANY showing that these costs would be outweighed by any public benefit. There was no evidence that people who are here unlawfully are applying to get a business license so that they can pay BPOL taxes. And, asked on the floor of the House why not cover other business entities, Byron essentially said because immigrants would be too stupid to incorporate themselves. Anyone who wants to limit unnecessary regulation that imposes costs on small businesses for which the patron has produced no evidence of a need or positive benefit should have been opposed to this bill.

    One bill you missed, which has the potential to introduce some reasoned and fact-based decision-making into this debate, is Bob Marshall’s bill that establishes a new Virginia Commission on Immigration. This Commission offers all of us a way to come together to talk about the costs and benefits of immigration (authorized and unauthorized) and to develop public policy based on something other than fear and emotion. Let’s hope that the Commission can avoid being carried away on the anti-immigrant tide that currently is a growing threat to the quality of life in the Commonwealth.

    And, if you think that threat is overstated, just ask the immigrant worker in Prince William shot 7 times on his way home from work by two teens who were out to “get a Mexican.” They didn’t ascertain his citizenship before they killed him.


  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Claire, Thanks for the explanation of why these bills were defeated. For the record, I was merely presenting them to the public as a follow-up to the PWC story, not endorsing them. This is the kind of legislation that’s bubbling up from the anti-illegal immigration movement, and it’s reflective of the kind of thinking, I would guess, that went into the PWC ordinance.

    There will more from where this came from, although, if their sponsors are smart, the next round of legislation won’t contain the same obvious flaws as the last.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think it is possible but not predictable but the issue itself is much more potent that some would have others believe – especially politicians.

    The Immigration issue is like the Dubai Ports issue in that many average citizens now believe that the President and Congress openly flaunt their association with special interests over the interests of ordinary citizens.

    The realization that business interests influence and control much legislation is leading to a backlash… and the idea that if something is good for business that it is good for Americans is no longer accepted as truth.

    With immigration.. there are two forces at work. One is your basic “get rid of them foreigners” sentiment but the other one is that business wants cheap labor and a way to escape paying for health and pension benefits as part of the compensation package

    and it’s pretty clear that immigrant labor can be dried up overnight if employers could be fined and/or jailed for hiring folks who lack documentation that would, in turn, require the employers to pay for benefits.

    We have politicians who think that if they pander (hide behind) the “alien” argument.. that they can hold off the voters on the undocumented labor issue.

    It takes the public a Long time to figure stuff like this out – but once they do – the dance is over.

    I think the dance is over.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I was obviously not around for the last Know Nothing movement in America so it’s fascinating to watch this one in action. I’d be curious to know if the influx of immigrants was just as heavy then (including my Irish ancestors, who were as hated as the Mexicans are now). Somebody has to have done some comparisons.

    I helped kill some of those bills, which were often ill considered and even dangerous, as Claire points out. My favorite was a Cucinelli bill which would have denied a business license in VA for one year to a multistate company that had hired illegal workers in Missouri or somewhere else. Imagine having to shut down a Virginia GM plant or shipyard for a year because of some low-level manager’s mistake in another state.

    Don’t tell me that Republicans in this state believe in free markets or the “land of opportunity.” If racism and economic panic and heavy handed jackboot government get votes, they get right in line. And yes they will grasp at this straw to keep from going under this year.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “and it’s pretty clear that immigrant labor can be dried up overnight if employers could be fined and/or jailed for hiring folks who lack documentation that would, in turn, require the employers to pay for benefits.”

    Employers can be and are fined, under existing law. It is a question of enforcement. Are there enough raids and investigations? Debatable — but it certainly happens.

    Employers do pay FICA, workers comp premiums, witholding taxes, UI premiums for illegal employees. A failure to do that — a knowing effort to file false returns — already puts the employer at huge risk of prosecution and punishment. It is 100 percent illegal to hire someone and not pay for their benefits. It is a question of audit and enforcement.(It is partly a knowing effort on the government’s part to keep Social Security afloat without a tax hike.)

    Some employers knowingly break the law and when caught, they can be prosecuted. Some really are in industries where there are few other viable labor choices (farm labor, construction, some service industries). Some employers are fooled by effective faudulent documents. And many, many employers bend over backwards to make sure they don’t hire illegals (some have government contracts that bar even legal immigrants.)

    There are some huge underlying macroeconomic forces at work here. If the illegals all disappeared tomorrow, the effect would be wrenching and the price increases and service delays would start a world of whining. There is no question that we need to both strengthen the border and punish lawbreakers BUT ALSO allow for a massive increase in the number of authorized guest workers. Many of the current workers without documents would happily have gotten them IF THEY WERE AVAILABLE. But the limits are stupid. It is easy to predict that if there is a disconnect between the demand for labor and the supply, somebody will use the back door. No law in the world will overrule supply and demand — duh.

    The limbo we are stuck in will soon turn into Hell.

  6. Anonymous 10:39am is right.

    Those who fail to deal with this issue at the federal level in a way that both seals our borders and responds to the law of supply and demand (yup, it’s possible … just like you can be good to the environment and make money) will reap the whirlwind. Those who would like Virginia and America to be more “homogeneous” will continue to use illegal immigration to fan the flames of intolerance and rebuild the foundations of organizations thought lost in the passage of time in this post-civil rights era.

    And, I do love all this talk about “cheap labor” that sudden populists have seized on to tap into anti-corporate feelings in the working class. Yes, there are some unscrupulous employers who use day laborers and don’t pay them, but that’s now a felony and the Virginia Justice Center is racking up civil judgments against such folks. But, the reality is that most of these workers are making an average of $8 to $10 an hour … more than the minimum wage. And, they are being paid that much or more because that’s what the market has to pay to get workers.

    This is not a question of immigrant workers taking jobs from US workers or doing jobs that they won’t do. It is a simple question of demographics. Immigrant workers fill a need for physically fit, younger workers that we can’t meet, demographically. Our population is aging fast, and we’re not producing young people fast enough to fill the demand for people with the physical capacity to do hard manual work (like poultry processing, tobacco and Christmas tree farming, fruit harvesting)or other jobs that require a less “experienced” body (like changing the sheets on beds in motels).

    Here’s a finding from a Northeastern University study on Labor Market Economics from 2002:

    At no time in the past 90 years was the nation so dependent on immigrant labor to meet its growing need for labor, especially among male workers, whose native supply barely increased in the past decade and actually declined in a number of regions and states, especially in the Northeast.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “It is 100 percent illegal to hire someone and not pay for their benefits.”

    Name the 3 most recent companies that were charged and convicted of felonies with regard such laws.

    Name the last Newspaper with headline on that issue.

    The perception from the public is that Business does not not want enforcement and that elected leaders are catering to business interests with respect to enforcement.

    It’s the ole wink and grin act..

    The logic espoused seems to be that because landscaping and hotel rates will become more expensive that we cannot afford to have those laws enforced and that if we did we’d have no hotel rooms or landscapers.

    and .. they think the American Public will buy this logic..

    People won’t take $8-10 hr jobs?

    Wal Mart? McDonalds, etc?

    The difference is that some businesses wants workers who are so vulnerable and unprotected that they can’t assert themselves for more decent wages or benefits or better working conditions.

    The perception is that Business wants the modern-day equivalent of slaves – no muss, no fuss… put em to work and fire their butts if they don’t like the working conditions, wages or benefits.

    and leave these workers no recourse with respect to laws – not enforced for businesses but deportation for the whistle-blowers.

    Any business person or elected leader who thinks that this issue does not have “legs” or that it is driven by ignorance and racism is seriously out of touch with many mainstream Americans in my view and I agree with JAB..

    the public has got a good whiff ..and the smell is getting stronger…

  8. Hairy Burd Senor Avatar
    Hairy Burd Senor

    Why stasrch my sheets!

    Immigrants are today what the African Americans were in the mid 20th Century.

    I think we ought to adopt a program of Massive Resistance to these here illegal aliens!

  9. Groveton Avatar

    Anon 10:10 – This is the best information I have found regarding your question:

    “The foreign-born population of the United States is currently 33.1 million, equal to 11.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of this total, the Census Bureau estimates 8-9 million are illegal immigrants. Other estimates indicate a considerably higher number of illegal immigrants.

    Approximately 1 million people receive permanent residency annually. In addition, the Census Bureau estimates a net increase of 500,000 illegal immigrants annually.

    The present level of immigration is significantly higher than the average historical level of immigration. This flow may be attributed, in part, to the extraordinary broadening of U.S. immigration policy in 1965. Since 1970, more than 30 million legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the U.S., representing more than one-third of all people ever to come to America’s shores.

    At the peak of the Great Wave of immigration in 1910, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. was less than half of what it is today, though the percentage of the population was slightly higher. The annual arrival of 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants, coupled with 750,000 annual births to immigrant women, is the determinate factor— or three-fourths— of all U.S. population growth.”.

    It is from the following web site:


    Of course, EVERYBODY seems to have an agenda on this topic so all estimates have to be taken in context.

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