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Virginia legal opinion supports checks of immigration status

August 3, 2010 | Virginia News

News Image RICHMOND -- Virginia joined the national debate over immigration Monday when Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II issued a legal opinion that authorizes law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police officers for any reason.

Previously, law enforcement officers in Virginia were required to investigate the legal status only of those who were arrested and jailed.

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Cuccinelli's opinion caught some law enforcement groups in the state off guard, including the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

"We were not consulted, and we always welcome the opportunity to talk with the office of the attorney general. We would have welcomed the opportunity to talk with him before this opinion, but we still welcome it," said Dana G. Schrad, the group's executive director. The association does not have a position on asking about immigration status during stops. "We have a mixed bag of feelings on immigration status matters, so it's more complicated than do we support it or not," she said.

Although procedures vary by department, Schrad said police and sheriffs in the state who inquire about immigration status tend to do so after an arrest, not during routine stops, although departments including Prince William may ask about status during a traffic stop to help determine identity if someone lacks valid identification.

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