Ask the Governor May 31, 2017
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Ask the Governor May 31, 2017

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined WTOP on May 31, 2017 for "Ask the Governor."

After pardon of Salvadoran immigrant, Va. gov. would intervene in other cases; Wants funding flexibility for Metro

by Amanda Iacone
WTOP

WASHINGTON Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he is willing to intervene in other cases of undocumented immigrants facing deportation for minor offenses and that he would evaluate those cases individually.

"I'll do anything I can to help Virginia families," McAuliffe said during an appearance Wednesday on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" program. 

McAuliffe said he pardoned a Falls Church mother, who was stopped for a broken taillight and was found driving without a license in 2013, because he hoped it might help her efforts to remain in the country. 

But he said he also wanted to send a message: "We are not going to tolerate this. We are not going to tolerate people being harassed. I do not want to see this woman ripped apart from her family, her husband and her two children because she was driving without a license."

Liliana Cruz Mendez, 30, originally from El Salvador, learned last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned to proceed with her deportation. The federal agency twice exercised "prosecutorial discretion" and delayed deportation in 2014 and again in 2015. 

McAuliffe said after the program that he's instructed his staff to review all other such cases involving pending deportation proceedings for what he called minor offenses, like Cruz Mendez's. His office has learned of at least one other individual facing similar circumstances. 

"I'm going to lean in to protect Virginia folks who have not committed serious offenses. I am going to lean in for you," he said. 

The governor said that he would not extend such help to those who commit serious or violent crimes. But he would review each on a case-by-case basis. 

McAuliffe, a Democrat, has been a vocal critique of the Trump administration's immigration policies, including the contested travel ban on seven Muslim countries. 

No one-size funding solution for Metro

McAuliffe wants the flexibility to decide how Virginia will pay for its share of Metro's funding. 

"Come up with a good formula. Go to us and say 'here's how much you need.' And let us in our respective jurisdictions Maryland, D.C., and Virginia and let us figure it out."

 McAuliffe said that under a regional sales tax plan floated this spring, a majority of the revenue collected would come from Virginia, even though roughly a third of Metro's ridership comes from the state. 

But McAuliffe said he is optimistic that an agreement to fund Metro can be reached. He expects to receive a preliminary report from Ray LaHood, the former U.S. transportation secretary, laying out a plan for lawmakers by September. The full report is expected in November. 

LaHood has been working to find consensus among leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia as well as Metro, McAuliffe said. 

"He's coming up with a plan that he thinks we'll all agree to," McAuliffe said. 

The governors race and the environment 

Sen. Frank Wagner, one of three candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor, held a hearing in Richmond on Wednesday on air quality regulations McAuliffe has directed his administration to write. The draft regulations, which are intended to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, aren't expected to be completed until the end of the year. 

No one from the governor's administration planned to attend Wagner's hearing however. McAuliffe said the director of environmental quality was out of the state on vacation and that his administration provided other dates when officials would be available to attend. 

McAuliffe said that Wagner was "grandstanding." "The reason I did this executive directive was to get rid of hot air. Frank Wagner is adding hot air."

McAuliffe wants the state to take steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to support green-energy businesses in the state in an effort to reduce flooding risks from sea-level rise. 

The governor, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election, is backing Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic primary. He said he would support Tom Perriello however should the former congressman from Charlottesville prevail. The winning Democrat will face one of the Republican nominees in November. 

Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair, and Corey Stewart, chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, are also seeking the GOP nomination for governor. 

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