Va. governor candidate says Trump wrong on sanctuary cities tweet

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President Donald J. Trump tweeted an emphatic endorsement of Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor Thursday, claiming Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam supported sanctuary cities. But a Northam spokesperson said the Democrat opposes all sanctuary cities, stressing that none exist within Virginia.

The president sent his tweet on the issue just before 10 p.m., his first major foray into the closely watched Virginia governor’s race. “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities,” Trump said. “Vote Ed Gillespie!”

The tweet refers to a Gillespie television ad that blasts the Democratic candidate for voting against a 2017 bill that specifically banned sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth.

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“Dr. Ralph Northam believes local law enforcement should follow federal immigration law and he opposes sanctuary cities,” spokesperson Ofirah Yheskel said in an email Friday. “There are no sanctuary cities in Virginia and [Northam] would oppose any statewide law that would restrict localities from following federal law.”

Sanctuary cities, and counties, have ceased to exist in Virginia for nearly a decade. Legislation known as HB820 passed in 2008, mandating that all Virginia jails report incarcerated immigrants to federal authorities regardless of immigration status.

In Virginia, fingerprints from all subjects who are processed by law enforcement are sent to the Department of Homeland Security. The non-partisan Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy notes, “because of this automatic information sharing, no locality can be a ‘sanctuary.’”

"There are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, a fact that Ed Gillespie knows full well and even admitted to in the first gubernatorial debate,” Yheskel said. “Despite knowing this fact, Ed is attacking a non-existent policy, proving he will say or do anything to get elected.”

Questions sent to the Gillespie Campaign Friday morning remained unanswered into the evening hours.

It remained unclear whether the Gillespie Campaign sanctioned the president’s tweet, or if Trump would campaign with the GOP candidate with one month until Election Day.

The presidential tweet came hours after a new Washington Post-Schar School poll found Northam leads Gillespie 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points among the sample of 720 people.