Virginia’s Warner Signs Law Banning Benefits to Illegals

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Mark Warner, signed legislation yesterday denying public benefits to illegal aliens.

Warner signs measure denying public benefits to illegal aliens (Washington Times)

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner yesterday signed into law a measure that denies illegal aliens public benefits, including access to Medicaid, welfare and local health care services. “I have signed this legislation into law but will ask the Latino Advisory Commission to study and monitor the legislation to ensure that it is fairly implemented and does not impose undue costs on local governments,” said Mr. Warner, a Democrat who is in his last year in office.

Delegate David B. Albo, a sponsor of the measure, applauded the governor’s decision. “It will help the state,” the Fairfax County Republican said yesterday. “I expect it will save us millions and millions of dollars. This bill stops subsidizing the behavior of illegal immigration.” There is no official local or state estimate of how many taxpayer dollars would be saved, since the agencies do not track how many illegals currently receive such benefits. Virginia spends about $2 billion on Medicaid and an estimated $60.5 million on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program annually. Lawmakers and immigration experts have said there are an estimated 200,000 illegal aliens in Virginia, which has an estimated population of 7.4 million.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires state and local governments to verify the legal presence of those seeking nonemergency public benefits. It applies only to aliens 19 and older. Illegals of any age still will be eligible for emergency aid, such as immunizations and pregnancy tests.

I think this dispells any doubt that Warner is running for President in 2008. Interestingly, he joins Hillary Clinton in getting to the right of President Bush on this issue.

I’m unsure whether this law will survive judicial scrutiny. While it seems obvious that government has a right–arguably, a duty–to deny benefits to those who are in the country in violation of federal law, the courts have created a whole host of “rights” for illegal residents.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Martin says:

    You have to start somewhere. This is a good law.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Don’t blame the courts, blame the framers of the 14th Amendment for using the word “persons” rather than “citizens.”

  3. Scott Dillard says:

    I don’t really see what changes will happen in Viriginia under this new law. I work for a big city welfare department, and I can tell you that no illegal is currently eligible for any TANF funds, whether in cash aid or services. They aren’t eligible for food stamps or Medicaid, either. We check everyone. We require verfication of legal status for everyone we aid. That’s already federal law.

  4. McGehee says:

    Scott, the difference is, a state law on this matter is likely to be enforced.

  5. Anderson says:

    I’m unfamiliar with what happens when an illegal immigrant brings his kid to a Virginia emergency room with a fever of 104 degrees. Would this law have any effect on that situation?

  6. James Joyner says:

    It applies only to aliens 19 and older. Illegals of any age still will be eligible for emergency aid, such as immunizations and pregnancy tests.

  7. Kent says:

    Immunizations and pregnancy tests are emergency aid?!!

    Of course, one can make a public-health argument for providing immunizations even to illegal aliens. It provides an external benefit to lawful residents. But I’m not sure I find this argument compelling.

  8. Anderson says:

    Oh, it was simply too obvious to notice …

  9. Digger says:

    Scott, the big difference is that they must now provide legal proof just as they do for a drivers license. Currently they can use other forms of ID to qualify for the services. With a more stringent ID requirement it will severely cut back on those currently using these other forms of ID.