While the grander issues of separating families through deportation, comprehensive immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and in-state tuition are terribly important, the day-to-day practical issue of transportation that allows migrants to support themselves and their families is most immediate for laborers. In many cases, persons whose status allows them to legally remain in the United States are prohibited from obtaining licenses under Virginia law.
"How, if you are allowed to work, are you not able to drive to work?" - Joseph Montano, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia
The consequences on a personal level are devastating. Virginians still in high school, working to support their families, end up taking court docket time, missing school, and paying fines that are doubly punitive. Teachers who take an interest in the welfare of their students often accompany them on their own time in an effort to provide at least support and some counsel. Out of necessity, many end up repeat offenders. Further, being responsible, they make an effort to follow the law by acquiring insurance. But as anyone who has experience in the shadows knows, there is only street justice there. Who knows if these often more expensive policies are even in force?
The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) met last year to map out the values and principles held by Virginians and provide a voice to Congress. But now what since reform appears dead in the water? Well, during the Obama administration, more than 2 million mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children have been deported; more deportations than in any previous administration. That number is hard to wrap your head around and does not convey the individual personal tragedies involved. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports 72,410 of those deported said that they had one or more U.S. born children. Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, then, have had their parents deported. So the VACIR has changed its tact and directed its energy toward pressuring the Obama administration to act since the House of Representatives has failed in its responsibilities. They are also looking at ways state legislators can address the issues.
11% of Virginians were born outside the United States. They, like all Virginians, need the tools and opportunities necessary to build strong families, healthy communities, and a culturally and economically thriving Virginia. For now VACIR is focused on four key areas:
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the Federal level
- ICE detainers And local immigrant detention policies
- Access to Virginia driver's licenses
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and in-state tuition
Where do we even begin with Federal reform? The well is poisoned. I will disclose that my bias on this matter begins and ends with the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, Simpson-Mazzoli, and close personal experiences with immigration and naturalization. Some 3 million immigrants were granted amnesty in 1986. That is the precedent that those who are angry should focus on when crying about today's "failed policies." And the fact is that the reason for the current flood is not anything President Obama has done but a more pedestrian cause: it's the economy stupid; the economy in Honduras, El Salvador and the rest of Central and South America. Places where we meddled, then abandoned; the spawn of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy abetted by Ollie North and "company."
At the organizational meeting a range of immigrant advocacy issues of importance to Virginia's immigrant communities will be discussed:
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform on the Federal Level
- Access to Driver's Licenses
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and In-State Tuition
- ICE Detainers and Local Immigrant Detention Policy
- Other issues of concern
Advanced registration is required. To attend the event held from 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM at the Church of the Incarnation Parish Activity Center, 1465 Incarnation Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22901, REGISTER HERE.
The Steering Committee of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR) includes the following organizations:
- Legal Aid Justice Center;
- Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy;
- Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations;
- Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia;
- Virginia New Majority;
- League of United Latin American Citizens;
- American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia;
- Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Policy;
- Shirlington Employment and Education Center;
- National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.
VACIR is organizing advocates and activities throughout Virginia as it works towards its goals. A flyer for the event is available here.