Our Mission

VACIR is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition of organizations that exists to win dignity, power and quality of life for all immigrant and refugee communities.

2020 in Review

A Message from the Executive Director:

Dear Friend,

The pandemic brought a lot of hardship to families both financially and emotionally. We recognize the lives impacted and the lives lost to this devastating disease. COVID-19 also provided a spotlight to the long term barriers that the immigrant community face each day. As we continue to mourn those we’ve lost, we know that the fight for equity and a pathway to citizenship continues.

As we look towards the future, 2021 will redefine equity for the immigrant community both in Virginia and nationally. We will build upon the major advancements made on the Local, State, and Federal levels.

The immigrant rights victories won in 2020 will impact an estimated 500,000+ Virginians, creating a better quality of life for them and their families.

We are grateful for you. It has been your time, dedication, and tireless effort that has created the VACIR membership, the VACIR committees, and the VACIR board that has led to these victories. Your investment in our coalition is the heart of our movement. Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to a brighter 2021 together.


Monica Sarmiento

COVID-19 Relief & Education

During an unprecedented time, our collective organizations were able to mobilize and provide resources to the community. Actions taken from our coalition include food distribution, assistance in rent and utility relief, and education from Facebook Lives or webinars.

As the immigrant community is not able to receive many of the government benefits, we have continuously focused on housing, health care, and economic justice. During the General Assembly Special Session in August, we advocated for rent relief and health accessibility within Virginia’s budget.

In addition, VACIR is a member of Governor Northam’s Health Equity Workgroup and Vaccine Workgroup. With the vaccine rollout, we have ongoing meetings with the Virginia Department of Health to make sure upcoming vaccines are accessible for the immigrant community.

Food Distribution with Multicultural Family and Education Center in Falls Church, VA

Repeal of 287(g) in Prince William County

Despite the pandemic, we were successful in advocating for the Prince William – Manassas Regional Jail Board to repeal the 287(g) ICE agreement with the regional jail. For 9 years, families were ripped apart and scared to report crimes in fear of deportation.

Our collective coalition played a role in ensuring the Prince William County Board of Supervisors were appointing criminal justice advocates and testifying against the ICE agreement during the hearings. Repealing the anti-immigrant policy has dramatically reduced the number of people transferred to ICE.

Tenants and Workers United & CASA Awaiting the jail board hearing on the 287(g) ICE Agreement

2020 Census

This past year, our executive director Monica Sarmiento and former VACIR Board chair, Leni Gonzalez were working to ensure the immigrant community was being counted in the Governor’s 2020 Census Commission.

In addition, our organizations received mini-grants to ensure the immigrant community was counted and talked about the myths of the Census. Many were doing direct outreach to community members and producing radio ads.

African Communities Together Launching a Census Canvass Event

Reapportionment Lawsuit collaboration with AG Herring

This year, VACIR joined Attorney General Herring’s lawsuit against the Administration in the Supreme Court. The Administration was trying to exclude the millions of immigrants counted when establishing the number of members of the House of Representatives that each state receives. The Census is an important part of where our communities get resources and who people can turn to for assistance. By joining the fight, we were able to help uplift voices in the immigrant community to make sure we recognize people’s humanity.

Mobilizing New Americans to Vote

During the election, we created Get out to Vote Spanish radio ads promoting people to early vote and to call Virginia Civic Engagement Table’s voter protection hotline if they have any questions. These radio ads provided people information on what documents to bring and where to find local polling locations.

General Assembly Session

After many years of advocacy, Virginia passed legislation that will improve the quality of life for the undocu+ community. Virginia is taking action to empower immigrant families to succeed in places where our federal government is failing.

During the 2020 General Assembly Session, We Worked to Gain New Laws:

  • Driver’s Privilege Cards for undocumented immigrants: Now the 17th state to allow immigrants the right to drive starting in January 2021 by establishing a Driver’s Privilege Card. This will allow The DMV has recently provided guidance and is accepting appointments for tests starting in January.
  • In-State Tuition for Undocu+ Students: This provides the opportunity for undocumented, DACA, and TPS students to receive in-state tuition after graduating from a Virginia High School. This levels out the playing field to not only make college affordable but also opens the door for colleges to provide equal opportunities in the future.
  • Prohibiting Law Enforcement from Asking Immigration Status of Victims & Witnesses of Crimes: There are now restrictions on when law enforcement officials can inquire about an individual’s immigration status. This helps break down fear and barriers for communities to report crimes.
  • Expansion of the English Language Learners Program: Many school districts did not have enough support for the English Language Learners program. We advocated for the expansion of staffing and resources to ensure no child is left behind.
  • Creation of the Office of New Americans: Virginia now has a dedicated office to promote the economic and civic success of Virginia’s diverse immigrant communities. This office within the Virginia Department of Social Services will provide assistance to the immigrant community in areas such as housing, health care, employment, and more.

Growth Within Virginia’s Immigrant Rights Movement

This past year, we were able to expand our number of organizations fighting for immigrant rights and hire new communications staffer. We want to welcome The Dream Project and Unitarian Universalist for Social Justice for joining the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

Next year, we will be focusing on a few of the items below:

  • Creation of a Leadership Pipeline Subcommittee: This committee will help assist in ensuring the immigrant rights leaders are given tools for success in educating our government, telling personal narratives, and mobilizing their community.              

  • Investment in the creation of an inequity definition for VACIR in 2021: To break down long term system barriers, VACIR will be looking at what inequity is and how we can level the playing field longer term.

  • Selection of the 2021 State Committee Priorities: For the 2021 General Assembly session in January, we are in the process of creating the Endorsement Guide on our priorities.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform: With a new Administration, we are optimistic about having more inclusive policies. We have been meeting with our Senators and Representatives in Congress to know we need to fix our broken immigration system this upcoming year.

With Gratitude

Thank you for all your support this past year. We are fortunate to have had people joining in on the fight to help make our community an equitable place called home.

During this period of rest, celebration and unity, please take time for self-care. A few helpful tips include:

  • Live Healthy. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, manage stress, and go for regular medical check-ups.

  • Practice good hygiene. Good hygiene is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons in that it not only reduces the risk of illness but also improves the way others view you and how you view yourself.

  • Try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting, or reading.

  • Find ways to relax. Try meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath, or walking in the woods.

We are incredibly grateful for your friendship and we look forward to working with you in 2021.