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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: Monica Sarmiento

Trump Appoints Anti-Immigrant Crusader Ken Cuccinelli as Head of Citizenship and Immigration Services


June 10, 2019

Contact: Waameeka AheVonderae, press@vacir.org, (804) 362-8110


Trump Appoints Anti-Immigrant Crusader

Ken Cuccinelli as Head of Citizenship and Immigration Services


Trump’s Pick for Immigration Policy Role Draws Criticism from Local Organizers


Richmond, VA  A month after President Trump declared his intention to take immigration policy in a “tougher direction”, Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general, has been given to a top Department of Homeland Security post. Cuccinelli served as a senator in Virginia, where he sponsored bills to compel employees to speak English in the workplace and attempted to repeal birthright citizenship.


Cuccinelli has over the years become one of the most staunch opponents of immigration reform efforts. His policy and legislative positions have been wrongheaded and his personal comments about immigrants divisive and intolerant. On a D.C. radio program he compared immigrants to rats saying, “It is worse than our immigration policy. You can’t break up rat families…and you can’t even kill ‘em.”


VACIR, a collaborative of 34 organizations, condemns the appointment of Cuccinelli as Head of Citizenship and Immigration services due to his history of using hateful rhetoric against immigrant families and continued push for anti-immigrant policies.


“Ken Cuccinelli has a long record of pushing for and supporting anti-immigrant policies in Virginia,” said Edgar Aranda, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO). “We pushed back and stopped several anti-immigrant bills introduced by him as a Virginia State Senator including one that would have allowed businesses to sue others who hired undocumented immigrant workers and another that would have designated the inability to speak English in the workplace as a reason to disqualify workers for unemployment benefits.  As our state Attorney General, he had Virginia join eight other states in opposing the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s “paper’s please” law SB 1070. Mr. Cuccinelli will bring this anti-immigrant stance to his new role to the detriment of immigrant communities across the country”.


Dream and Promise Act Passes


Tuesday, June 5, 2019

Contact: Waameeka AheVonderae, press@vacir.org, (804) 362-8110


Dream and Promise Act Passes

Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights Praises the Passage of the Dream and Promise Act


Richmond, Virginia —  The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (HR 6) was passed in the United States House of Representatives following Congress’ return from recess. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would provide permanent relief for upwards of 2.5 million aspiring Americans, many of whom have deep ties to our communities, decades of residency, and cannot obtain immigration status under existing law. 23,500 people in Virginia are TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. Without those TPS holders, 1.3 billion would be lost from state GDP annually.  


“The passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 in the U.S. House of Representatives is a strong first step towards ensuring that men, women, and children fleeing violence can live safe and peaceful lives,says Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director for the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “It is now up to the Senate and the White House to pass and sign this bill into law.


VACIR a collaborative of 34 organizations, is calling on lawmakers to do what is right for the immigrant community and pass this bill to provide a pathway to the American Dream to many deserving immigrants.


Governor Northam Must Resign for the Good Of Virginia


Friday, February 1, 2019

Contact: Monica Sarmiento, press@vacir.org, (804) 482-0722

The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights supports the leadership of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in calling on Governor Ralph Northam to resign. Virginia’s ugly and painful history of bigotry and racism and the continued structural barriers facing communities of color must be rooted out everywhere they are found. In order for this work of truth, transformation, and healing to move forward, Governor Northam must resign. We look forward to working with future Governor Justin Fairfax and Virginia’s legislative leadership on building a commonwealth with opportunity, justice, and dignity for all.


Trump Regulation Would Rig the US Immigration System for the Wealthy


October 10, 2018

Media Contact: monica@virginiaimmigrantrights.org

The Trump Administration has proposed regulation that would dramatically broaden the “public charge” test that has been a part of federal immigration law for decades. These proposed changes would drastically reduce access to green cards and various types of visas for immigrants. These proposed changes put money ahead of family and threatens to worsen hunger, poverty, and unmet health and housing needs.

“Changes to the public charge test will also negatively affect family unity. Exclusionary provisions, such as favoring wealthier immigrants, individuals who are able-bodied and of employable age, are a regulatory backdoor approach to separate families. This is a particular concern for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities because 31% of the 1.1 million getting green cards each year are from Asia and Pacific Island nations. Forty percent of family-based immigrants are from Asia & Pacific Island nations,” says Sookyung Oh, D.C. Director of NAKASEC and Federal Committee Chair of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR)

“This rule change will impact the health and well-being of millions of legal immigrants and their families including US citizen children,” said Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).  “If this rule is adopted, we would force immigrant parents into a situation of choosing between feeding and providing health care for their families or preserving the ability to change to a more permanent status at some point in the future.”

“It is the neediest in our community who will be affected. Immigrants will not apply for public benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid. These programs provide basic necessities for families. Without these programs, immigrant’s families will go hungry, go without basic medical care, and endure hardships that unnecessary. This is a reckless decision on behalf of the Trump Administration.” Says Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director for the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

The rule is open to public comment from October 10, 2018, to December 10, 2018. VACIR encourages all of the member organizations and Virginia residents to submit a comment in opposition to this proposal. We will update this page with additional information to help you write and submit a comment.




Time Is Running Out For DACA Recipients To Apply For Renewal


August 2, 2018


Jen Lawhorne, jen@progressva.org, (804) 368-4849


VIRGINIA– Young immigrants living in Virginia should not delay in applying to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status due to expected decisions from federal courts in August. More than 12,000 residents of the Commonwealth have used DACA to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses, attend school, and contribute to their families and communities. DACA recipients have made a tremendous impact on Virginia, but if conservative politicians have their way, federal courts will side with the Trump administration to shut the program down.


For Paula Alderete, a George Mason University student and a Mason DREAMer, DACA has given her many opportunities that she otherwise wouldn’t have. “If DACA is fully stripped away, it will be as though my future is being stolen,” Alderete said. “Fully terminating DACA will have larger implications that will extend to all of our communities regardless of legal status. With the current lawsuit and political climate, the undocumented community is constantly being used as a political football by political parties, ‘leaders,’ and ‘allies.’ We are  tired of having our futures decided for us by individuals who do not know who we really are.”


President Trump announced in the fall of 2017 that he was ending the DACA program. A DC federal judge ruled in April of this year that the decision to end DACA was unlawful, opening the door for DACA renewals to occur. Attorneys general from seven states led by Texas will argue in federal court next week against the constitutionality of DACA. It is assumed that the fight will go to the Supreme Court of the United States. Immigrant justice advocates believe that Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court bench, Brett Kavanaugh, will likely support the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda because of his previous rulings.


Sookyung Oh of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), a member of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said, “Ending DACA would be a huge mistake and makes no sense. Having DACA status has provided over 12,000 young people in Virginia an opportunity to work legally, go to college, and drive. Those two years of deferred action means two years of less worrying about detention and deportation, and more hustling to realize dreams. If you are a DACA recipient whose status will expire next year, we urge you to renew. We also urge you to join us in the streets and in the halls of Congress to fight for our communities and citizenship for all. We also urge DACA recipients to speak out for commonsense state solutions like extending driving privileges and in-state tuition to undocumented communities in Virginia.”


The Virginia Coalition of Immigrant Rights (VACIR) is urging all DACA recipients whose status is set to expire in the next year to renew their DACA by the end of the month. Resources are available for people wishing to renew their DACA from non-profit legal aid organizations, such as the Legal Aid Justice Center, and community organizations, like NAKASEC.


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