No, Virginia, Virginia is not a Sanctuary State

Press Releases

February 24, 2020

IRLI shows local sheriffs can enforce immigration law

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court of Virginia is hearing an appeal of a case brought by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys against Scott Jenkins, the Sheriff of Culpeper County, Virginia, challenging his enforcement of federal immigration law in his county. On Friday, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Court in support of the sheriff.

The ACLU claims that when, as provided for in federal law, Sheriff Jenkins performs the functions of a federal immigration officer pursuant to an agreement that he has reached with the federal government, or when he otherwise assists in federal immigration enforcement, he is acting without authority under Virginia law.

As IRLI discovered, however, Virginia law is replete with statutes that explicitly confer immigration-enforcement authority on local jurisdictions, such as the authority to detain illegal aliens for the federal government. One statute even provides that sheriffs may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including federal law enforcement agencies, to enforce federal laws. In short, the statutes to which IRLI invites the Court’s attention demonstrate that the ACLU’s version of Virginia law is a fantasy: the Commonwealth gives Sheriff Jenkins ample authority to enforce federal immigration law.

“In the face of its failure to threaten sheriffs into standing down on immigration law enforcement with federal lawsuits, the ACLU is taking another tack: going state-by-state, suing in state courts to try to get rulings that sheriffs lack the requisite state authority,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “In the case of Virginia, this has been an epic fail; a single glance at the Virginia Code is enough to show that Virginia is far from a sanctuary state. We hope the Supreme Court of Virginia agrees with the trial court and throws this meritless lawsuit out, letting Sheriff Jenkins carry on protecting his county from the dangers posed by criminal aliens.”

The case is McClary v. Jenkins, No. 191132 (S. Ct. Vir.).

For additional information, contact:

Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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