Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie on Thursday called for aggressive action against gangs and a ban on sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, part of a policy rollout that appears designed to fire up his conservative base.
By highlighting gangs and crimes committed by immigrants living in Virginia illegally, Gillespie embraced an issue championed by Corey Stewart, who nearly beat him for the GOP nomination last month with a Trump-like agenda that took a hard line on immigration.
Gillespie’s rollout coincided with a Trump administration push this week to call attention to MS-13, a violent street gang that originated in El Salvador and has taken root in some immigrant communities in the United States.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to El Salvador on Thursday as part of a mission to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against the gang. President Trump plans to visit Long Island in New York on Friday after the arrests of 15 gang members to discuss ways to eliminate MS-13.
After Gillespie’s razor-thin victory in the GOP primary, Republicans at the state and national levels have been urging him to listen to Trump strategists. A spokesman for the Gillespie campaign would not say whether it had coordinated Thursday’s policy rollout with the White House.
While Stewart used inflammatory rhetoric when discussing illegal immigrants, Gillespie spoke in technocratic language about seeking federal funding, establishing prevention programs and revising the state’s criminal code to increase prosecutions. He announced his anti-gang policies in front of the Loudoun County courthouse, a site he chose in part because of MS-13 activity in the area.
“Job number one is eradicating gangs and rewarding those who keep up safer,” said Gillespie, who will face Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in November. “If someone is here illegally…