Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins 88.9 WCVE’s Dan Rosenthal for this week’s political analysis. Topics include repercussions in Virginia after the zero-tolerance immigration policy and the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the border.
DR: From WCVE News in Richmond, I’m Dan Rosenthal. Craig Carper is away. Joining me now from the Richmond Times Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE political analyst, Jeff Schapiro. Jeff, good morning.
JS: Hi there, Dan.
DR: Jeff, the Trump administration has apparently abandoned the practice of separating immigrant families as they attempted the, as they attempted to enter the United States illegally. And he’s done that with a presidential order, rather than forcing the Democrats and Congress to act, but I’m sure there are repercussions of the president’s actions in Virginia. What can you tell us about that?
JS: And there are political aftershocks in this state, in large part because this is a very different Virginia. Remember this is not the first immigration crisis that has had repercussions for Virginia politics. Shortly after the president took office they attempted to close the borders of this country to Muslims. The outcry was intense, particularly here in Virginia where there are large numbers of Asians and Hispanics. This was a segment of the population that barely 30 years ago was negligible, and it is now a segment of the population that is not easily overlooked. Asians and Latinos constitute, each constitute about 8% of Virginia’s population, and they have emerged as a political force in certain parts of the state, in particular in Northern Virginia and the suburbs of Washington, D.C., but both are increasingly visible here in the Richmond area. So when something like this happens, first the attempted Muslim ban and then this attempt by the administration to separate immigrant families accused of illegally attempting to enter this country, it resonates powerfully through Virginia’s politics. And the immediate implications have been for a senator, Tim Kaine the Democratic incumbent. He is looking on all of this as, clearly as an opportunity to spotlight his immigrant-friendly credentials. He is fluent in Spanish and campaigns in the language of his new constituents. On the Republican side, Corey Stewart, who is challenging Kaine, has made it clear that he supports what the president has been doing. Though we haven’t heard from Corey Stewart since the president retreated on the, if you will, divide and incarcerate policy. There are implications, too, in three congressional districts, three closely watched Republican-held congressional districts, largely suburban, increasingly diverse. Here in the Richmond area, one, a seat held by Dave Brat, in Northern Virginia, a seat held by Barbara Comstock, and in south Hampton Roads, a seat held by Scott Taylor.
DR: And didn’t Governor Northam and some other state executives pull their National Guard troops back home because of what is really a federal issue? How does that work?
JS: Governor Northam, a Democrat, to protest what the Trump administration has done, ordered that a Virginia National Guard helicopter and its crew of four return to Virginia. That helo and its crew had been on border security duty in Arizona. And I need to point out, Dan, there are governors in other states in both parties who have taken similar steps. That includes next door, a Republican, Larry Hogan in Maryland.
DR: Jeff, the National Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Planned Parenthood and some others have filed a federal lawsuit this week saying state abortion rights are too restrictive. What’s that suit about?
JS: If you are looking for evidence that the fight over abortion rights continues in Virginia, this is it. It remains intense, but the venue is switching for now from the legislature to the courts. This coalition of abortion rights organizations, civil rights organizations, is alleging that Virginia law illegally restricts a woman’s access to abortion services. The disputed laws and regulations are largely the handiwork of Republicans, and even though Republican’s numbers in the legislature have been shrinking and voters again installed a pro-abortion rights Democrat as governor, abortion rights opponents are gambling that they may be able to accomplish in the courts what they have not been able to accomplish yet in the legislature because of this Republican majority. This lawsuit targets a number of things – tougher licensing standards for abortion clinics, the requirements that second-trimester abortions are performed in hospitals, also that women are required to undergo an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. This lawsuit is getting the attention of abortion opponents. That includes the Family Foundation, a conservative organization. And I think that they have correctly called this, that the effort here is to try to accomplish through the judiciary what has not been accomplished through the legislature.
DR: Our thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff, it’s been good talking to you, and we looking forward to talking to you again next week.
JS: A good weekend to you.