Most Virginia illegal immigration reforms hit roadblock

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – As the illegal immigrant accused in a deadly DUI crash prepares for court, state lawmakers hit the brakes on most immigration reforms.

Police say Feliciano Aguas-Suarez, 39, was drunk the day after Thanksgiving when he swerved into another vehicle, killing its driver, Casey Bohr, 23. Wednesday, Hanover County prosecutors will try to prove there's enough evidence to go to trial. But while that case moves forward, most immigration reforms at the General Assembly have hit a roadblock.

If politics were baseball, house Republicans would be batting pretty low right now. Of the 12 illegal immigration reforms that were introduced only two have survived.

The reforms were brewing long before November 26th, but that was the day two cars collided with such force that a young man died, and an admitted illegal immigrant was arrested and accused of driving drunk.

Del. Chris Peace is a Republican from Hanover, where the crash occurred.

"Had this gentleman not been in the state, not been in the Commonwealth, this might not have happened," said Peace.

Del. Peace later sponsored a bill that would deny admission at state colleges to illegal immigrants, but it was blocked in the state Senate. So were nine other bills cracking down on illegal immigration in the areas of law enforcement and employment.

Kent Willis is with the ACLU.

"They simply seem to be excuses for targeting, detaining, and doing background checks on people based on their nationality," Willis said.

Two bills are still alive. One would allow contractors to more easily figure out if their workers are illegal immigrants. The other would allow the DMV to cancel an illegal immigrant's Driver's License.

Del. Peace says fellow House Republicans feel the issue is not being fixed on the federal level.

"We believe those bills were responsible attempts to do so, and we're disappointed with the action taken in the Senate," he said.

But as Virginia's Hispanic population rises, opponents say the defeated bills had little hope of passing anyway.

"The vast majority of those individuals are here entirely legally. But all of them end up being targeted by these bills," Willis said.

Del. Peace indicated House Republicans would try again next year, but it will likely take a wholesale change in Senate leadership before they get a different result.

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