RD69 - Governor's Commission on Immigration - Final Report - January 2009

Executive Summary:
The Virginia Commission on Immigration was established in Chapter 849 of the 2007 Acts of Assembly. It was tasked with studying, reporting, and making recommendations to address the costs and benefits of immigration on the Commonwealth. Specifically, the Commission was directed to examine the impact of immigration on education, health care, law enforcement, local demands for services and the economy, and the effect on the Commonwealth of federal immigration and funding policies. The 20-member Commission was comprised of eight members of the House of Delegates and three members of the Senate, as well as broad and diverse citizen representation (See Appendix A for a list of members).

In accordance with the Acts of Assembly the Commission needed to be specifically funded by the Appropriation Act of 2008. This did not occur, thus causing the Commission to expire on June 30, 2008. To complete the work of the Virginia Commission on Immigration, the Governor’s Commission on Immigration was established by Executive Order Number 73. The Governor’s Commission on Immigration has the same objective, members, leadership, and staff as the defunct Virginia Commission on Immigration. Although technically a new commission, the Governor’s Commission on Immigration is a continuation of the Virginia Commission on Immigration.

Since its inception two over-arching principles guided the Commission. The first was to ensure its review was objective and that any findings would be based on factual information. The second is that the Commission’s review would address impacts both in the context of legal as well as undocumented immigrant populations. The second principle is particularly important. The timing for establishment of the Commission coincided with a broad ranging nationwide debate about immigration which predominately focused on undocumented immigrants. This category of immigrants amounts to less than one third of the total national immigrant population (*1). Consequently, opportunities were missed about how to better assimilate and serve the needs of the majority of immigrants living in the US legally.

The failure of the federal government to comprehensively reform immigration policy since 1986 impacts the ability of states and communities across the Nation, including Virginia, to address a myriad of short-term immigration related issues. It also inhibits state and local long-term planning and program implementation needed to adjust to the projected demographic changes resulting from immigration. Together these create significant difficulties for Virginia and its communities to develop consistent policies regarding the delivery of services to growing immigrant populations.

Accordingly, state leaders in the Commonwealth from both the Legislative and Executive branches agreed on the need for facts to guide the development of policy, as well as the need to create greater consistency across state and local efforts in Virginia. The resulting Immigration Commission, along with other study efforts in the Commonwealth, has attempted to provide the foundation for clarity and consistency to support good public policy and government service delivery relative to immigrant populations.
(*1) Passel, Jeffrey S. (2006). The size and characteristics of the unauthorized migrant population in the U.S. Pew Hispanic Center. Retrieved January 6, 2009: http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/61.pdf