A bill banning sanctuary cities in Virginia caused fireworks on the floor of the House of Delegates today after a Democratic lawmaker charged the GOP-led bill’s directives as “dog whistle politics.” The contention led to a top Republican legislator unequivocally charging the Democratic Caucus to “clean up their own house first” if they “want to talk about racism.”
The legislation taken up during Tuesday’s session involved S.B. 1156, patroned by State Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun), which would prohibit any locality from adopting any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The measure, which would outlaw the establishment of sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth, is identical to last year’s H.B. 1257, which failed to become law.
Black’s bill passed the House with a 51-47 vote, but its fate remains uncertain after Governor Northam vetoed the similar measure after the end of the 2018 General Assembly session.
Though, the legislation is not the highlight of this story.
Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) rose to make a point about the bill banning sanctuary cities.
“Let’s be clear. Let’s be very clear,” he said shakily. “This bill is really about dog whistle politics, created to stoke fear of ‘the other.'”
Delegate Lopez said the Republican legislation would “send the worst kind of message about Virginia.”
Responding to the seemingly-uncalled-for remarks, House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) spoke to the implication that he said “many of us have grown tired of.”
“Just because we favor something as simple and clear as the rule of law – that we are racist – that was just what was uttered on this floor with the term ‘dog whistle politics,'” he said.
“For the last week,” Gilbert continued, “we have heard, by implication, suggestions that [Republicans] are racist, in some respect or another, and I am tired of it.”
Pointing to the left-leaning side of the aisle, the majority leader charged, “If our friends in the Democratic Caucus want to talk about racism, they need to clean up their own house first…and we’re waiting for you to do that.”