Pointless Nativism in Virginia

Virginia is facing serious problems, like a budget deficit and unanticipated shortfalls in transportation funding, despite mushrooming taxes in recent years. So what does Virginia’s House of Delegates do?

It voted to ban immigrant wives legally present in the U.S. from changing their names, even if they got married in Virginia and their husbands are U.S. citizens, if the wives themselves are not yet U.S. citizens. That’s the gist of HB 151, sponsored by Lynnwood Lewis (D-Accomac). His bill passed on January 25 by a margin of 94-to-3. It banned name changes unless the person whose name is to be changed is a “U.S. Citizen.”

Had the bill been passed last year, it would have barred my wife, a French citizen who lives in Virginia and got married in Virginia, from changing her last name to mine after she gave birth to our daughter. (She concluded it would be confusing to have a different last name than her child and husband; she did not change her name sooner at the time of our marriage, partly because it would have delayed her immigration-related paperwork). Luckily for her, she obtained the circuit court order changing her name before this bill was proposed.

The State Senate has apparently now amended the bill to allow permanent residents, as well as citizens, to get their names changed. (My wife is now a permanent-resident alien. At the time of our marriage, however, she had only a temporary international-organization visa).

The bill’s passage by a bipartisan vote in the House shows the hypocrisy of both political parties. House Republicans claim to support “family values,” but this bill would make it harder for wives to adopt the family name, and for children to have the same last name as both of their parents.

House Democrats claim to oppose “nativism” and support “diversity,” but they could not care less about the legal immigrants who are the primary victims of this bill. The only immigrants they seem to care about are illegal aliens, probably because most illegal aliens are perceived as coming from ethnic groups that lean heavily Democratic. The Democrats’ Raising Kaine web site, which pushed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s candidacy, simultaneously bashed Senators John Warner and George Allen for supporting expanded legal immigration to benefit high-tech businesses, even as it accused Allen of “nativism” for seeking to crack down on illegal immigration. And Washington State Democrats moved to block legal aliens on H1B visas from receiving in-state tuition under a statute that gave illegal aliens in-state tuition, a move applauded by the politically-correct Seattle Times, even though federal law requires states to give in-state tuition to many legal aliens (including some who are on temporary visas), see Toll v. Moreno (1982), but not to illegal aliens, see Equal Access Education v. Merten (2004)).