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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.

Author Archives: Ariel Garayar

Immigrant Essential Workers Deserve Citizenship. Now Congress Needs to Act

Washington D.C. — Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chair Alex Padilla (D-CA) led a hearing on “The Essential Role of Immigrant Workers in America.” This comes at a time when Congress is debating on immigration reform. Currently, both Virginia Senators have not taken a stance to support essential workers through the budget reconciliation package.

Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights released the following statement:

“Immigration status has been the biggest barrier for the 5 million undocumented essential workers and their families. Refugee and immigrant workers are risking their lives to make sure our society is still running despite facing high rates of COVID-19.

It is crucial for Congress to modernize our immigration system by providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS and DED holders, and essential workers. The hearing is an important step to making sure we are highlighting the stories of essential workers, their importance in our society, and the role they will play in future recovery. 

Now it is time for Virginia’s Senators to give essential workers a pathway to citizenship using any way possible including reconciliation.”

The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights held a Spanish-Language rally on the importance of including essential workers in immigration reform: https://fb.watch/5t52cfv7Xt

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Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (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. 

Learn More About the Fight for Immigration Reform: https://www.virginiaimmigrantrights.org/immigrationreform/

VACIR Praises Gov. Northam’s Call for the White House to include Immigrant Essential Workers in Reconciliation Package

For Immediate Release

Thursday, April 22, 2021

VACIR Praises Gov. Northam’s Call for the White House to include Immigrant Essential Workers in Reconciliation Package

Virginia — On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam sent a letter to the White House in support of the inclusion of immigrant essential workers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders in the second economic recovery bill. Governor Northam is the first governor to come out in support of immigration reform through a reconciliation package.

“The best thank you to our immigrant essential workers is a pathway to citizenship for all the work they have done on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “Families deserve to stay together.”

Over 5 million undocumented immigrant workers are working on the frontlines over the last year. Many are working in areas like health care, agriculture, housing, food services, transportation.

“I help my mother who’s suffering from multiple illnesses because she could die without her daily medicines,” said Ana Olivares, an SEIU 32BJ essential janitor in Northern Virginia and TPS holder who has been in the U.S. for 20 years. “My partner even started a little company, creating more jobs, paying taxes, and contributing to this economy. I want Congress to recognize the contribution working immigrants make to this great nation, we deserve citizenship.”

Despite being essential, undocumented workers who have contributed to our communities have been left out of the previous relief packages, therefore, leaving them ineligible for resources like federal stimulus payments, access to health care, or unemployment insurance.

“This would help me give peace if I were to lose my job,” said Luis Andrade, Construction Worker and member of Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO). “We are people who live here and have homes here. I have had TPS for 20 years and it finishes in a few months. As we continue to work as essential workers during COVID-19 and now is time for Congress to do something for us.”

According to the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, providing a pathway to citizenship would boost the economy and tax revenue. Benefits would include increased wages, job creation, and even strengthened workplace protections, for both immigrants and native-born workers.

“New Virginia Majority supports Governor Northam in urging Senator Warner and President Biden to include a pathway to citizenship for essential workers as part of the American Recovery Act,” said Jon Liss, Co-Executive Director of New Virginia Majority. “We’ve all learned over this last year both the health vulnerability and the critical contributions of 140,000 Virginians undocumented immigrants who work in essential industries such as construction, care work, agriculture, food supply chain in addition to Temporary Protected Status workers and Dreamers. This pandemic has made abundantly clear that we are deeply interconnected and can only build it back better if our most vulnerable and essential are included.”

Recently, Biden spoke to Congressional Hispanic Caucus members regarding immigration reform through reconciliation.

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Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (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.

DMV Data Privacy Protection Bill Drives Out of the VA Senate

For Immediate Release  

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Contact: Press@vacir.org

DMV Data Privacy Protection Bill Drives Out of the VA Senate

Richmond, VA — Today, the Virginia Senate passed H.B. 2163, the DMV Data Privacy Protection bill to ensure immigrants’ personal information, as well as that of other Virginia drivers, have security measures on how data companies and law enforcement can use it for immigration purposes.

H.B. 2163 would codify existing policies and practices that DMV has already put in place in its agreements with private companies to regulate the use of driver personal information and limit third-party data sharing. This also requires ICE and any other agencies to obtain a judicial warrant or court order to obtain DMV data for the purpose of civil immigration enforcement. Personal information includes a person’s address and photo.

“With this bill, Virginia takes the next step in disentangling our state functions from federal immigration enforcement,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “It’s not enough to say, we won’t intentionally help ICE arrest Virginia immigrants; we also need to look at everything we’re doing that may unintentionally contribute.”

Adding the information protection measures would incentivize immigrant families to obtain a driver privilege card. Thousands of drivers have been able to get a driver privilege card with many more in the process of learning the rules of the road. Getting a driver privilege card would make it easier for families to get to work, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office. 

“We are glad that the General Assembly has worked to protect the personal information of our community members when they are interacting with the DMV. The legislature has shown its commitment in advancing immigrant justice and we are glad it has done so. We look forward to Governor Northam signing this legislation once it passes so that our immigrant community can continue to call Virginia home,” said Luis Aguilar, CASA Virginia Director.

H.B. 2163 will now be sent back to the House of Delegates for a vote due to language changes in the Senate. If passed, it would be sent to the Governor’s desk.

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Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (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

To read the report to Protect the Personal Information of Virginia Drivers, visit: https://www.virginiaimmigrantrights.org/driverprivacy/

Next Step in Protecting Immigrant Driver’s Information

For Immediate Release  

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Contact:

Press@vacir.org

Next Step in Protecting Immigrant Driver’s Information

Richmond, Va. — Building off of passage of Driver Privilege Card bill for undocumented immigrants, today the House of Delegates passed H.B. 2163, the DMV Data Privacy Protection bill. H.B. 2163 would protect the personal information of Virginia drivers from being bought and sold by private companies and prevent ICE from misusing it for civil immigration purposes. This information includes where a person lives, what car they drive, and a photo of what they look like.

Over 270,000+ undocumented Virginians are now eligible for a Driver’s Privilege Card. In January 2021, the first month of implementation over 2,000 drivers were able to receive a Driver Privilege Card. While obtaining the right to drive was a major victory, now thousands are giving personal information to the Department of Motor  Vehicles. 

“Immigrant families deserve to know that when they go home that ICE will not be at their door waiting for them,” said Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “The General Assembly now has the ability to rebuild trust and continue the mission of improving the quality of life for the immigrant community.”

Anyone obtaining or eligible to apply for a DPC could run the risk of having their information shared unethically. There are several states who previously shared DMV data with federal law enforcement agencies, such as Washington, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, and Georgia. In granting access to the DMV database, states are feeding into the ICE pipeline, handing ICE a list of potential deportees.

H.B. 2163, DMV Data Privacy Protection Bill will now be sent to the Virginia State Senate.

Driver Information Protection Bill Passes VA Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 22, 2021

Contact: Press@vacir.org 

 

Driver Information Protection Bill Passes VA Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee

Richmond, VA — Today, the Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee passed H.B. 2163, the DMV Data Privacy Protection bill to help safeguard the information of new immigrant drivers who obtained a driver privilege card.

H.B. 2163 would add privacy protection measures for all driver’s information since state police and third-party data companies are able to access this information and potentially share it with ICE. This information includes where a person lives, what car they drive, and a photo of what they look like.

“Immigrant drivers are doing the right thing by taking the road test and getting a driver privilege card,” said Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “By not protecting the information of drivers, we are putting at risk thousands of drivers and their families from being targeted by ICE.”

Currently, anyone obtaining a driver privilege card (DPC) could run the risk of having their information shared unethically. There are several states who previously shared DMV data with federal law enforcement agencies, such as Washington, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, and Georgia. In granting access to the DMV database, states are feeding into the ICE pipeline, handing ICE a list of potential deportees.

“We applaud the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee for passing this important bill,” said John Cano, Centreville Immigration Forum. “This is a great victory for all Virginians as we continue to be a welcoming Virginia for all.”

Over 270,000+ undocumented immigrants are eligible to obtain a driver privilege card. This has helped families have the opportunity to drive to work, go to the doctors, and improve their quality of life.

“It is hope and relief for us. A great achievement,” said Geronimo R., driver and community member with Centreville Immigration Forum.

H.B. 2163 will now be sent to the full Senate for consideration of passage. If passed, H.B. 2163 would need to be sent to a conference committee due to language changes in the Senate.