Virginians Protest Governor McDonnell’s Latest Anti-Immigrant Stance; His Attempts to Deny Drivers Licenses to Legal Immigrants with Work Permits.
Harrisonburg-On Wednesday, a crowd of forty community members gathered in front of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Harrisonburg to call attention to Governor Bob McDonnell’s anti-immigrant, discriminatory policies including his recent decision to make it difficult for legal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
Governor McDonnell has angered Virginia residents with his latest call for the DMV to deny federal Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) as a form of identification in obtaining a driver’s license which protesters say is an act of discrimination against all immigrants. The law causes significant risk for Virginians, especially those who are undocumented, and those on Temporary Protection Status from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan.
The protesters stood on the sidewalk in front of the DMV chanting “Hey McDonnell shame on you, immigrants are people too” and “Land of the free? Not for me! McDonnell canceled EAD!” Protestors say that denying EAD as a form of identification when obtaining a driver’s license takes away the ability of legal immigrants to drive legally in Virginia.
The call for banning of EAD’s as a means of gaining a driver’s license is a response to a drunk driving accident caused by an undocumented immigrant. However, protestors say that this does nothing to prohibit drunk driving, and instead hurts an entire population of Virginia residents, many of which are in fact legally residing within the US on Temporary Protected Status.
“Governor McDonnell is clearly out of touch when it comes to immigration issues and is using this as an excuse to discriminate against immigrants. Banning EADs as documentation for obtaining driver’s licenses does nothing to make Virginians safer. It simply makes it more difficult for those who are here legally and are playing by the rules,” said Virginia Organizing leader Ana Maria Mendez. “Legal immigrants who have done everything the government has asked of them will now have no way to transport themselves to work, to the doctor, even to the grocery store. This is a policy that hurts all Virginians.”
The ACLU of Virginia and independent law firms are questioning the legality behind the Governor’s latest ruling, and lawsuits are likely. In the meantime, people are taking to the streets. Protests began at the Arlington DMV in mid-September, and will continue in a different city every Wednesday at noon until the Governor repeals the new law.
“The reckless discriminatory actions of the Governor are hurting all Virginians. It concerns me that instead of having a reasonable, honest conversation about immigration, the Governor is finding new ways demonize specific groups of people,” said Rick Castaneda, local activist and Virginia Organizing leader. “Now is the time to find responsible solutions, not to make it more difficult for law abiding, legal immigrants.”
The protestors expressed their support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the national level and showed their support of the Dream Act, a piece of legislation designed to give young immigrants a path to citizenship through higher education or military service. Protestors also commended the work of Dream Activists—Virginia, a multicultural, migrant, youth-led movement whose goal is to pass the Dream Act. Dream Activists—Virginia has been active on immigration issues in the Valley and statewide.