Virginia GOP Banking on Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in Today’s Elections

Voters in Virginia head to the polls today to elect their legislature, and while Democrats are hoping to ride a wave to control of the state Senate—a trend that included winning the 2005 governor’s race and unseating a Republican U.S. senator in 2006—the GOP is banking on anti-immigrant sentiment to carry them through a tough cycle. From a recent Washington Times article:

Republican lawmakers say Democrats’ winning control of the state Senate next month would be a major setback to their efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in Virginia.

“You can [kiss] every illegal immigration state reform bill goodbye,” said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican. “Every Republican we lose is one less vote we have for immigration reform.”

The immigration debate has intensified in Virginia over the last year, especially in the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., where a number of communities have attempted to crack down on undocumented immigrants through various ordinances designed to deny services, punish employers and landlords, and check people’s immigration status.

In addition, the state legislature has been among those pushing a wide variety of anti-immigrant laws, such as defunding charities that provide aid to undocumented immigrants, barring them from attending college, enlisting sheriffs to enforce immigration, and otherwise blocking state or local benefits and services to the group they blame for any number of ills.

Of course, anti-immigrant campaigning is not restricted to Republicans. For example, Northern Virginia Democratic candidate Karen Schultz has been running ads attacking her opponent for supposedly supporting “amnesty for illegals.” But the state’s Republican Party appears to be pushing immigration as a campaign theme.

The Right is already hoping that today’s elections in Virginia—if the GOP keeps control of the legislature—will point the way to an anti-immigrant Republican formula for 2008. “Autumn 2007 may turn out to be when immigration became a key issue in presidential politics,” muses conservative commentator Michael Barone.