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Audio: Del. Alfonso Lopez, Tram Nguyen of New Virginia Majority Discuss New Legislation Affecting Virginia’s Immigrant Community

2020 was "the most consequential and important one ever for the Commonwealth's immigrants and new American communities."

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Check out the latest episode of the Transition Virginia podcast, in which “Tram Nyugen of New Virginia Majority and Delegate Alfonso Lopez join the Transition Team to discuss new legislation affecting Virginia’s immigrant community, including Drivers Privilege Cards, DREAM Act, Sanctuary Cities and…the impact of COVID19 on the undocumented immigrant community.” As Nguyen explains:

When I first started advocating in the General Assembly a dozen years ago, it was all defense. We were trying to stop Virginia from becoming like Arizona…a ‘show-me-your-papers’ type of state. In the last couple of years, it’s been refreshing to be able to not only have to make sure that our communities  are protected, but to also be able to go on the offense and have proactive legislation that actually takes care and addresses most urgent needs our communities face. So there’s been a huge political landscape shift and it’s been great to be a part of that.”

And as Del. Lopez points out:

“Demographically in Virginia, in the year I was born in 1970, we were a 70% rural state, 30% urban and suburban. Now, flip that and we’re around 75% urban/suburban/exurban and 25% rural. And you’ve gone from 83% white in 1970, 0.9% Latino, 0.3% Asian and the rest African American; to a 63% white state, and then you’ve got around 9% Latino, 5.9% Asian-American…so a 20 percent drop in the white population, a much more diverse Commonwealth, that is really sort of a microcosm of the United States in some ways, and it’s been a fascinating demographic shift…it’s like a demographic tsunami over the last 50 years.”

What did the House of Delegates do to respond to the federal crackdown on immigration? Del. Lopez said:

“This year, we were able to put in…the Virginia DREAM Act, which I’ve been putting in the for the last nine years…also legislation to address some simple protections that would have made it easier for immigrants and new Americans to simply feel safe in Virginia, basically a prohibition on the police from inquiring about the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crimes; making it so it’s no longer mandatory that jails and sheriffs report the immigration status to ICE of people who are being stopped for busted tail lights and misdemeanors…so that someone isn’t being hauled into the ICE detention process simply because they have a busted tail light or they jawalked…Also, there’s legislation that Tram and Kathy Tran took the lead on, in terms of drivers’ licenses and driver privilege cards, as well as an office of new Americans that was created. So you’ve seen five, I think, major pieces of legislation that for years we’ve been working on that finally got passed this year, and I would actually argue…I would consider the 2020 session the most consequential and important one ever for the Commonwealth’s immigrants and new American communities.”

There’s a lot more good stuff in this interview, including discussion of pursuing activism and democracy in the time of COVID-19, when everyone is “locked up in their house.” Check it out, below.