Virginia Governor vetoes 22 bills, including easier path for certain immigrants to work as police

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed nearly two dozen pieces of crime and law enforcement legislation, including measures that would have expanded credits for inmates to get out of prison early and allowed some immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to become police officers.

Youngkin announced his final action on a total of 60 bills late Wednesday, including 36 he signed into law, two he amended and 22 he vetoed.

The Republican Governor rejected the bills because they would “weaken criminal penalties and undermine public safety,” he said in a statement announcing his vetoes.

He said the bills “protect illegal immigrants, or impede law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges from holding criminals accountable and bringing them to justice.”

“We have a duty to protect the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia from harm,” Youngkin said.

One bill called for allowing recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to become eligible for jobs in law enforcement. The federal program provides protections against deportation for people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. continuously since at least 2007. Recipients are eligible for work authorization in the U.S., but cannot receive amnesty and don’t have a path to citizenship.

Sen. Jeremy McPike, a Democrat who was the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, accused Youngkin of trying to score political points by rejecting the legislation.

“It’s pretty unbecoming and cowardly to pick on kids and score political points on the backs of kids who literally have lifelong hopes and dreams of becoming police officers,” McPike said.

In a news release, Youngkin said the state Department of Criminal Justice Services can offer waivers for noncitizens who are permanent residents to serve as law enforcement officers on a case-by-case basis. He said the legislation would “run counter to this appropriate working practice by allowing non-citizens who are not permanent residents and are not eligible to become citizens to be certified as law enforcement officers.”

McPike said it is doubtful the General Assembly can override Youngkin’s veto of the legislation since most of its support came from Democrats, who hold only a slight majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. A two-thirds vote is required to override the Governor’s veto.

McPike said he plans to re-introduce the bill in a later Legislative Session.

Youngkin also rejected bills to give inmates early release credits for time served before a conviction, including time spent in state hospitals; allow people charged with assault and battery on a law enforcement officer to cite their mental illness or developmental disability as a defense; and prohibit courts from asking about a defendant’s immigration status.

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group generally supports the vetoes announced by Youngkin Wednesday.

“We feel that in a day and age where we are seeing more violent crime, we need to hold people accountable, whether it’s at the sentencing stage or at the stage of releasing them early,” Schrad said.

The bills Youngkin signed into law include legislation that would place new restrictions on the use of attack dogs in state prisons; make it easier to prosecute violations of protective orders; and permanently allow the sale of to-go cocktails.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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