Sendy Portillo moved to Richmond from El Salvador in 2008. She was looking for an organization to get involved in when Virginia Organizing started developing a chapter in the Richmond area in 2019. Before the pandemic started, she helped recruit members of her community for the Know your Rights Workshop we held in December, and she visited the General Assembly during the 2020 session many times to lobby for Driver’s Licenses for All.
Sendy says, “I really love Virginia Organizing’s work. I can see that all the laws we’re supporting will be good for the community.” Sendy felt pushed by the problems immigrants face to work for them to be able to drive legally in Virginia. “They know that they don’t have documents, but they’re trying to do things right. They just want to work and take care of their families.” The partial victory on licenses inspired her to think “that we can win the things we want if we keep fighting.”
Since the shut-down, Sendy has continued to lead in the growing chapter. She facilitated a monthly meeting this week for the first time, and she participated in the Power Analysis where leaders, board members, and staff met several times during the month of May to analyze how we can build more power in Virginia and what changes we need to see.
One of the issues Sendy discussed was the difficulty for immigrants of finding affordable health care. If they don’t qualify for insurance on Marketplace.gov, they have to pay enormous prices. People can be charged as much as $400/child per month, and for a single mother with a low-wage job, that is impossible. As a result, “those kids don’t go to the doctor or the dentist.” Immigrants she knows have died because they couldn’t see a doctor when they were sick.
Sendy herself reports that she is asked how she’s going to pay before she receives treatment any time she goes to the hospital. Five days after the birth of her second child, she became dangerously sick with an infection that caused a high fever, but she was sent home with antibiotics that didn’t cure her several times before she was finally admitted because of kidney failure.
“I’m telling you this because I know how immigrants feel. We have to do something.”
Thank you, Sendy, for helping to create a chapter in Richmond and for standing up for justice in our communities.