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Virginia State Immigration Laws

The intricate rules of immigration law can feel overwhelming and daunting. This feeling is particularly true for immigrants in the United States. This article aims to shed light on immigrants' fundamental rights and responsibilities. It looks at their eligibility for public benefits and the law enforcement agencies that handle immigration cases. This article is relevant for immigrants in Virginia, regardless of their immigration status. Some of the topics discussed are as follows:

Law Enforcement and Immigration in Virginia

Local law enforcement agencies work with the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Some of the federal agencies that handle immigration matters are as follows:

ICE added section 287(g) in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This section authorized ICE to delegate certain functions to local law enforcement agencies. It aims to enhance the collaboration between federal and local authorities in identifying immigrants without proper documentation with criminal charges.

The 287(g) program identifies and processes non-U.S. citizens arrested for criminal acts. Once identified, authorities assess these non-U.S. citizens for possible removal or deportation.

In Virginia, Culpeper County Sheriff's Office participates in this initiative.

In 2017, E.O. 13768, called "Secure Communities," was in effect. President Joe Biden revoked the executive order in 2021. But before its revocation, it advocated a similar concept as section 287(g). It verified and identified undocumented immigrants charged with criminal offenses.

Employment Checks

Refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9.

Virginia E-Verify Requirements

All state agencies must use E-Verify (effective Dec. 1, 2012).

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Applicants must show proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence to get a driver's license or state ID.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Under federal law, immigrants without documentation can't get most public benefits. But, they can use emergency services, health care, and other programs "necessary to protect life and safety."

In Prince William County, immigrants without documentation can't access community services.

Education Checks

Virginia offers access to in-state tuition for students without proper documentation. The Virginia state legislature passed Senate Bill 1387 to make this possible. The bill took effect in July 2020 and allowed undocumented students in Virginia access to in-state tuition rates. The student must meet specific criteria:

  • Attended high school in the country for at least two years
  • Have proof of income tax returns for parents or guardians of the dependent student, unless exempted by law

In-state tuition is available for students without documentation and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Voting ID Rules

Virginia Department of Elections asks voters to show one form of identification to cast a vote. The following are some of the acceptable forms of identification:

  • Virginia driver's license
  • Valid student ID
  • Valid employee card
  • Government-issued ID card
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Valid tribal enrollment or other tribal ID
  • Voter ID card
  • Nursing home resident ID

The state also allows non-photo identification documents. These documents include the following:

  • Current utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Government check
  • Paycheck with the name and address of the voter
  • Any government document with the name and address of the voter

The non-photo identification document must have been issued within the past 12 months. These are acceptable in either electronic or physical form.

Housing Ordinances and Immigration

The U.S. Fair Housing Act protects people's rights to federal housing, regardless of immigration status.

Related Resources

  • Know Your Rights — A guide to protecting yourself and your family during immigration raids (PDF, CASA of Maryland, and other organizations).
  • Immigration to Virginia — Resources for immigrants to Virginia (U.S. Immigration Support).

There are also nonprofit organizations in Virginia that assist with immigrants' advocacy of their rights. The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights is among them.

  • Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights — A multi-ethnic and multi-racial coalition of organizations that advocate immigrant and migrants' rights. It also provides support and resources for immigrants in Virginia.

Learn More About Your Rights as an Immigrant in Virginia

The intricacies of immigration law can be complicated and hard to understand. This is particularly true for immigrant communities that do not have assistance programs and legal services readily available. It's crucial to learn about immigrants' rights and responsibilities.

If you or your family members would like to seek legal aid in processing your immigration status, there are immigration attorneys who can help you. Some of the most common areas that immigration attorneys help with are:

  • Naturalization or getting U.S. citizenship
  • Processing visas for immigrant workers
  • Getting a green card or lawful permanent residence
  • Petitioning family members of U.S. citizens
  • Other issues related to immigration law

Immigration attorneys can also give legal advice tailored to your case. They can also give help to migrants scheduled to appear in immigration court.

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