Richmond, VA – Today the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a broad group of Virginian organizations advocating together for comprehensive immigration reform, applauded the immigration legislation submitted last night by a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight.” The bill would create a path to citizenship for currently undocumented individuals, contingent upon substantial completion of heightened border security measures. It would also overhaul the visa program by increasing the number of visas available to high-wage workers, creating a new category of visas for low-wage workers, and changing the number and type of available visas for family members.
“The bill, as we understand it, represents an important step toward immigration reform that benefits all Americans,” said Jay Brown, the Director of the Office of Justice & Peace for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. “We must move swiftly to establish policies that offer a path to citizenship, promote family stability and reunification, responsible border security, and opportunities for decent jobs and a future with hope.”
Decent jobs and a future with hope may be within closer reach for DREAMers, the nickname given children brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age who would benefit from policies like the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minor act. Under the terms of the bill filed yesterday these youth would have an expedited path to citizenship. Isabel Castillo, a Virginia Organizing Leader and DREAMer activist, explains: “As a DREAMer, I'm hopeful that young people will have the opportunity to thrive in the U.S. Opportunity for DREAMers makes sense; we have been educated here, we have worked hard, and we only want the chance to succeed here.”
The bill comes after months of negotiations, and is the first comprehensive immigration proposal since a Senate bill with similar intentions died in 2007. It would allow millions of undocumented individuals currently living and working in the United States to achieve citizenship in 13 years if they meet certain financial, language and background check requirements. However, opening up that process to families is entirely contingent upon increased border protection and all employers implementing the E-Verify system.
While it would end deportation and provide an unlimited number of visas to foreign spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents; it would also eliminate visas reserved for foreign brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. “The bill is certainly not perfect,” said Dan Choi, President of the Board of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans in Virginia (CAPAVA). “One of our priorities is family reunification and ensuring that children of all ages, and the siblings of U.S. citizens, are given a chance to reunite with loved ones as part of reform.”
"Comprehensive immigration reform must include all of the 11 million immigrants who have worked tirelessly to put this issue on the national agenda demonstrating their huge commitment to becoming Americans. Comprehensive reform must include everyone," added Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Chairman of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO). "While we are encouraged by the movement on immigration reform, immigrant families are still being torn apart by deportations. The President must issue an executive order now to ensure that those who have fought for reform are not stripped from their families before the bill is even voted on.”
The issue is likely to dominate the conversation in congress throughout the summer. There are serious concerns that the amendment process will disrupt the delicate balance struck in this compromise legislation and ultimately lead to its demise.
“Overall, this bill is a huge advancement for the 11 million people who have been forced to live in societies' shadows for too long,” said Jon Liss, Executive Director of Virginia New Majority. “Our struggle in the streets, meeting halls and the ballot box have taken us this far and it is important that we keep the pressure on to secure passage of the best bill possible.”
The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights is a growing coalition of Virginian organizations working together to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. The Coalition’s common principles can be found online at: www.immigrantrightsva.org.
Endorsers of the Coalition's principles include: American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia, Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect, Just Neighbors, League of United Latin American Citizens – VA, League of United Latin American Citizens — National, Legal Aid Justice Center, National Korean Service and Education Consortium, Shirlington Employment and Education Center, United for Social Justice, Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Virginia New Majority, and Virginia Organizing.
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