RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Over the weekend, all eyes were on a group of Central Americans who journeyed in a caravan to the U.S. border.
For the last month, they have been making their way north walking, by bus and taking trains to seek asylum.
But not long before they were expected to reach the border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the crossing would not immediately be able to handle more asylum seekers.
The AP reports it can hold about 300 people at a time. The migrants tried to start applying for protection at the San Diego border crossing Sunday, but U.S. officials have said for two days that the facility is full and can’t accommodate them.
During their trip, the caravan captured the attention of President Donald Trump.
Last week, he tweeted:
“Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL”
On Monday, Trump referenced the migrants again, tweeting:
“The migrant ‘caravan’ that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are. Yet Democrats like Jon Tester continue to support the open borders agenda – Tester even voted to protect Sanctuary Cities. We need lawmakers who will put America First.”
The idea of sanctuary cities has been a heated debate at the Virginia State Capitol.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly voted down party lines to pass a bill introduced by Del. Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge).
House Bill 1257 would have prevented Virginia localities from adopting “any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”
It was dubbed the “anti-sanctuary city bill.”
“Our immigration system is so broken in this country,” said Cline, who is running for Congress. “We are a nation of laws and it’s important that we uphold our laws here in the Commonwealth and across the country. We want to make sure that no jurisdiction stands in the way or puts up barriers to the enforcement of federal laws.”
Though the legislation survived the Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate, Gov. Ralph Northam opted earlier this month to veto it.
It was one of 10 bills vetoed by the governor this General Assembly session. Similar legislation was vetoed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year.
In his veto explanation, Northam said in part, “Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across this Commonwealth that state and local law enforcement officials are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged. The safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable reporting criminal activity and cooperating with local law enforcement investigations. This bill would make it harder for the men and women who keep us safe to do their jobs.”
Cline said, while he’s not surprised Northam nixed his bill, he doesn’t want Virginia becoming a magnet for illegal immigration.
“Where states are adopting policies that make it attractive for illegal immigrants to come to various states, we want to make sure that Virginia has a reputation as a law and order state and as a state where the laws — all of the laws, including our immigration laws — are enforced,” said Cline.
But Lana Heath de Martinez was happy to the see the legislation halted.
She’s the ‘Welcoming All’ coordinator for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. The Richmond-based group was vocal about its opposition to Cline’s bill.
“All faith traditions have some teaching about welcoming strangers or being kind to those who are different from ourselves, and so this bill that stigmatizes and criminalizes those who may be considered strangers or immigrants, it’s against all of our faith traditions,” she said. “So it’s really something that unites the faith community.”
Heath de Martinez said the bill sends a message to immigrants and their allies that police are not to be trusted. Instead of reporting crimes, she said the bill would have sent immigrants into hiding.
“Virginia should be a place with a message and culture of inclusion that welcomes all and upholds human dignity, not the home of fear-mongering and criminalization,” she said.
As for the caravan of migrants seeking asylum, Heath de Martinez said seeing video of their journey struck a chord with her.
“I was moved to tears because I watched them scale a wall that my husband climbed over and so many other people that I personally know and love and care about,” she said. “They are folks who are here because they are fleeing something in the land that they call home. They’re not here because they don’t like their country or they don’t want to work to make a life for themselves. They’re here because they have fear and they’re looking for a hopeful future for their children and their grandchildren.”