From the Associated Press to the New York Times to Iran’s Press TV, Wednesday night’s public forum on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Virginia Square, generated plenty of headlines.
The forum was organized as a listening session by a volunteer task force charged with recommending changes to Secure Communities, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
After a raucous hour of impassioned speeches, about 150 pro-immigrant demonstrators marched and chanted their way out of the building, declaring the forum an “absolute sham” and demanding that the task force resign. The walkout — and many of the speeches and chants that preceded it — was choreographed by the group CASA de Maryland, which has been speaking out against Secure Communities since its inception.
Armed with signs and slogans, group members helped to pack the auditorium at GMU to its 300 person capacity. Numerous speakers — including ministers, monks, attorneys, activists and County Board member Walter Tejada — told of Secure Communities’ alleged impacts, from the deportation of teenagers to the threatened deportation of accident victims. While it’s supposed to help track down undocumented perpetrators of serious crimes, Secure Communities is not working as the Obama Administration intended, immigrant advocates argued.
The demonstrators’ pivotal moment came when two undocumented mothers, facing deportation proceedings, confronted Marc Rapp, who had been inconspicuously sitting in the audience, observing the proceedings. Rapp, the Department of Homeland Security official in charge of overseeing the Secure Communities program, was told through an interpreter that one of the women, Maria Bolanos, was picked up after she called police during a fight with her domestic partner. She decried Secure Communities and asked to be reunited with her children, as Rapp listened quietly.
Shortly thereafter the CASA protesters filed out of the room, shouting “end it, don’t mend it.” After a noisy demonstration outside the building, they marched down Fairfax Drive and into nearby St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Back inside at GMU, the discussion continued. Several people spoke in favor of Secure Communities. With the protesters out of the building, there were fewer hisses and boos as they spoke of the need to make sure the country’s laws are followed.
“If you’re going to be an illegal immigrant in this country, the least you can do is not do crime and not get arrested,” said Columbia Pike resident John Antonelli. Other speakers suggested the 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented by stricter immigration enforcement.
Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney who works in Virginia Square, “thanked” members of the task force for the extra business she’s been getting because of Secure Communities.
The Department of Homeland Security will be holding a public meeting in Arlington on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.
The meeting will take place between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at George Mason University Founder’s Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive) in Virginia Square. The Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities is seeking public comments about the controversial program, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
From a press release issued by Arlington County this morning:
Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities is making recommendations to the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on ways to improve the Secure Communities program, including ideas on how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety or national security threat. This panel is composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, court officials, ICE agents from the field, and community and immigration advocates. The advisory committee is considering proposals on how ICE may adjust the Secure Communities program to mitigate potential impacts on community policing practices, including whether special procedures should be adopted for ICE enforcement actions directed toward individuals charged with, but not convicted of, minor traffic offenses.
Anyone planning on attending the meeting is asked to RSVP via email to TFSC@dhs.gov. Attendees are asked to indicate whether or not they plan on making any comments to the task force.
Lost Dog Cafe Expanding — The Lost Dog Cafe location on Columbia Pike is expanding. The restaurant is taking over the space once occupied by an adjacent cell phone store. [Pike Wire]
Changes to ‘Secure Communities’ — The federal government is changing the ‘Secure Communities’ program to “avoid further confusion” about whether it’s optional or not. Arlington tried to “opt out” of the program — which shares local arrest data with federal immigration authorities — last year. The program will remain mandatory for local jurisdictions, but now it will be conducted without formal, signed memoranda of agreement with individual states. [Washington Post]
Capital Bikeshare Saves Lives? — Arlington’s Commuter Services department is touting a recent British study that found that a bike share program in Barcelona saved about 12 lives as a result of the extra physical activity from bicycling. The study also found that the program eliminated 9 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. “In other words, bike-sharing and Capital Bikeshare are good for you and the air we breathe,” an Arlington official writes. [CommuterPage Blog]
Cuccinelli Shrugs off Local Dem Attacks — Those local Democratic candidates who have been calling Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli an “extremist” and other unkind words? Not a concern for Cuccinelli. “It’s a little bit hard to take seriously being called ‘so far outside the mainstream’ by people who are so far to the left they can’t see the middle,” he said in an interview. [Sun Gazette]
Beloved Bishop O’Connell Football Coach Dies — Steve Trimble, Bishop O’Connell High School’s varsity football coach since 2002, died suddenly at his office yesterday morning. Trimble played high school football in Cumberland, Md., before playing for the University of Maryland on a scholarship. He played free safety for the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears during the early-to-mid 80s, before playing in arena leagues and then joining the coaching staffs of several NFL teams. Trimble, 53, was the father of four sons, all of whom played football at O’Connell. [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Immigrant Advocate Wants Office for Latinos — Lois Athey, the head of tenants-rights group BU-GATA, told the County Board over the weekend that she would like the county to establish an Office of Latino Affairs for Arlington’s 31,000 Latino residents. Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to look into options for further outreach to the Latino community. [Sun Gazette]
More iPads Coming for Arlington Students? — Camilla Gagliolo, the instructional technology coordinator for Arlington Public Schools, is a big believer in using iPads in the classroom. The device “is bringing educational technology to new levels of student engagement,” she told a conference. iPads are currently in use at several Arlington elementary schools. [THE Journal]
Storm Damage Caused by ‘Macroburst’ — The National Weather Service says the extensive damaged caused by Sunday night’s storm was caused by a “macroburst” — a larger version of a microburst. The macroburst brought winds of 60-70 miles per hour to some North Arlington neighborhoods, causing trees and power poles to snap in half. [MyFoxDC]
RV Catches Fire on GW Parkway – Traffic was brought to a standstill on the GW Parkway Monday morning when an RV burst into flames. Dark, billowing smoke from the fire could be seen across the river in D.C. The driver got out safely, but the RV was a total loss. [NBC Washington]
Pike Residents ‘Want it All’ — Columbia Pike residents who participated in last week’s ‘charrette‘ process “want to have their cake and eat it too,” in the words of one planner. The county is working to satisfy their demands for expensive amenities and preserved affordable housing. [Washington Examiner]
Arlington Schools Handle Language Challenges — Arlington Public Schools’ Language Services and Registration Center helps children from nearly 3,000 immigrant families, who communicate in 96 different languages, to integrate into the school system. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004
In a letter to colleagues, Chief Judge Brian O’Leary said Adele Lapinell, 74, will be remembered for her “patience and understanding.”
I am saddened to announce that Ms. Adele Lapinell, a staff interpreter with the Arlington Immigration Court, passed away today in a single car accident in the parking facility at the court.
Ms. Lapinell first joined the Department of Justice/EOIR in January 1988. Throughout her years as a staff interpreter at the Arlington Immigration Court, Ms. Lapinell assisted thousands of limited English proficient individuals in better understanding their immigration court proceedings, and helped each of the immigration judges communicate with those who appear before them. The agency greatly depends on staff interpreters like Ms. Lapinell to provide a communicative bridge between the immigration court staff and the aliens who appear in proceedings. Her colleagues and friends at the Arlington Immigration Court will greatly miss her. She will be especially remembered for her patience and understanding.
In a ceremony at the Arlington Public Schools Education Center on N. Quincy Street, Hareth Andrade and Antonella Rodriguez-Cossio from Washington-Lee High School, Henry Mejia from Yorktown High School and Jose Vasquez from Arlington Mill High School Continuation Program received Dream Scholarships to help fund their college educations.
Although countless high school students enjoy grants and awards around this time of year, the Dream Scholarship is reserved for undocumented students — children born abroad who are not U.S. citizens or legal residents.
An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools every year, but they cannot receive federal financial aid and are ineligible for in-state tuition in Virginia. That renders college an expensive, unattainable goal for many.
While activists around the country fight for undocumented students’ rights at the federal level, others, like Arlington School Board Member Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez, are trying to make a difference on a local level. Violand-Sanchez founded and chairs Dream Project, Inc., which awards the scholarships.
While speaking at Thursday’s event, Dr. Violand-Sanchez said that many undocumented students feel discouraged by the restrictions against them and don’t know where to turn. She added that although school guidance counselors and other community members may want to help, they don’t always know the best means if they haven’t previously dealt with students in this situation. She hopes Dream Project, Inc. can bridge that gap.
The four students all described the personal motivators that kept them focused on their goals during difficult times. “I despised the idea of throwing away the opportunities my parents gave me when they brought me and my siblings to the United States,” said Meija, a valedictorian who’s heading to Bucknell University in the fall.
More than 100 demonstrators marched through the busy streets of Virginia Square, Clarendon and Courthouse last night in support of immigrant rights and against deportations.
The protesters, assisted by a police escort, marched from George Mason University’s Arlington campus to the Arlington County jail. Holding signs and chanting slogans in English and Spanish, the protesters made their message loud and clear for scores of bewildered bystanders and outdoor diners in Clarendon.
Once at the jail, a number of speakers addressed the crowd. Most condemned the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program while praising Arlington for attempting to “opt-out” of the program.
“Arlington was one of the first communities to opt out of Secure Communities,” said Tenants and Workers United Interim Director Jennifer Morley. “When people who live in Arlington heard about it, they spoke out, the organized. Arlington knows that Secure Communities is not the kind of initiative we want in our community.”
“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary community!” shouted Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU’s National Capital Area chapter, to loud cheers.
A woman identified as “Elizabeth” tearfully spoke about how she was deported before, but made her way back to the area so she could support her young daughter, who has a heart condition.
Also speaking at the rally was Arlington County Police Capt. Jim Wasem, who spoke on behalf of the department. ACPD Chief Doug Scott has previously expressed concern that Secure Communities could dissuade immigrants from cooperating with police investigations.
Protesters will march from George Mason University Founder’s Hall, at 3351 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, to the Arlington County jail, at 1435 N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse, where they will hold a rally against the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program.
The march is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. Organizers expect the rally outside the jail to start at 7:15 p.m.
“Speakers at the rally will include representatives from Virginia, Maryland, DC, New York, Illinois, California and other locales affected by the discredited deportation program,” organizers said in a statement.
The march and rally will coincide with the start of the Turning the Tide National Summit, a three-day pro-immigration gathering that’s being held this year at GMU’s Arlington campus.
Secure Communities helps federal authorities enforce immigration laws by checking the fingerprints of those arrested by local law enforcement through a Department of Homeland Security immigration database.
In September the County Board voted unanimously to attempt to withdraw from the program, saying that Secure Communities “will create divisions in our community and promote a cultural fear and distrust of law enforcement.” County officials eventually determined that it was not feasible to withdraw from the program. A coalition that helped organize local opposition to Secure Communities was later given the county’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award.
Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada would like to see the children of illegal immigrants in Virginia offered in-state tuition at public universities — but he’s not kidding himself.
On WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, Tejada said that Virginia Republicans, including Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, would never support such a plan.
“I don’t think that there’s a chance right now [given] the political environment,” Tejada said.
A woman who called into the show questioned the wisdom of granting illegal immigrant children in-state college tuition when they would be unable to legally obtain a job in the United States.
The children of illegal immigrants still must go through the same college admission process as other students, Tejada argued. He said that illegal immigrant children should be given the same opportunities as the children of legal Virginia residents.
“We have the best and the brightest — some who are valedictorians — we are not allowing them to continue their education,” Tejada said. “It is wrong.”
Tejada says that he supports comprehensive immigration reform.
Why the sudden hiring push?
A Chipotle spokesperson told us that they’re “in an industry where turnover is high.” But recent news reports suggest something else may be going on.
“The feds are cracking down on undocumented workers at Chipotle restaurants in Virginia and the District,” TBD reported last month. “After the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly warned Chipotle it would be targeted… the Chipotles in Columbia Heights and Woodley Park fired 40 employees who could not prove they were legally authorized to work.”
No such mass firings have been publicly reported in Virginia, but one local says there are a lot of unfamiliar faces among the crew at the Ballston Chipotle (4300 Wilson Blvd).
“I’ve been going there for 5+ years and literally most of the same people worked there till a few weeks ago,” Chipotle regular Jamie Cave told ARLnow.com. “When I went in the other night, it was a whole new crew and barely any Hispanic workers (mostly white or Indian). Others have been mentioning that they don’t recognize most of the workers there now.”
A visit to the Ballston Chipotle last night confirmed that, at the very least, the location is understaffed. The line for a burrito around 7:30 p.m. extended nearly out the door.
Chris Arnold, the Chipotle spokesperson, confirmed the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement investigation into the restaurant’s hiring practices in the Washington area, but denied that there has been a mass exodus of employees.
Tejada, Moran Get ‘Snippy’ Over Immigration — At a work session Monday afternoon, County Board member Walter Tejada and Rep. Jim Moran got in a verbal ‘tussle’ when Tejada suggested that Democrats have not done much recently to advance the cause of immigration rights on a federal level. [Sun Gazette]
Westover Farmers Market Delayed — Organizers had hoped to launch a farmers market in Westover this spring, but it looks like red tape will delay their goal by a year. Farmers market boosters have secured verbal approval to use school property for the market, but the county zoning office says it will not grant a use permit until the county ordinance related to farmers markets is changed. [Falls Church News-Press]
W-L Launches New Student Newspaper Web Site — Washington-Lee High School’s Crossed Sabres student newspaper has a new web site. [W-L Crossed Sabres]
Of those arrested, 130 were described as aliens with criminal records who were previously convicted of crimes including rape, assault, burglary and narcotics possession. ICE also arrested eight fugitives and three individuals accused of re-entering the United States after a previous deportaiton.
Of the 11 individuals arrested in Arlington, one was a man described as a 39-year-old Ecuadorian national and legal permanent resident of the United States.
“His previous criminal convictions include three counts of contributing to delinquency of minor, assault and battery against a family or household member, grand larceny and receiving stolen property, and statutory rape of a child between 13 and 15 years of age,” authorities said. “He was taken into ICE custody pending a hearing before an immigration judge.”
“We are a nation with a proud history of immigration. If you come here lawfully, work hard, and play by the rules, the United States welcomes you with open arms,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement today. “For those who come here unlawfully and commit crimes at the expense of their neighbors and their communities, we will not rest until we find you and send you home.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also lauded the raids.
“Once again through our working relationship with ICE, Virginia has had the opportunity to continue to safeguard its communities from convicted criminals,” McDonnell said.
ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams were assisted by various local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Secret Service, Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police, and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Arlington County Police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal said the department was notified about the pending arrests, but did not participate.
Illegal Immigrant Bills Killed in State Senate — Most of the bills that immigrant advocates spoke out against at a rally last week have suffered a quiet death in a state Senate subcommittee. The bills would have prevented illegal immigrants from attending public universities in Virginia and would have required citizenship checks for anyone arrested by police. [Washington Examiner]
Cyclist Gets Doored on Clarendon Boulevard — It’s a non-uncommon tale of woe from the cycling world. A bicyclist was riding in the bike lane on Clarendon Blvd when a parked motorist suddenly opened his door. A collision ensues. Police and medics are called. The next day, however, the injured bicyclist wasn’t able to get the driver’s insurance information from police. While this raises police procedure questions, there is also the larger question: Is there a way for drivers and bicyclists to share the road without injuring or cursing at each other? [TBD, Patch]
More: Native Foods Cafe Coming to Shirlington — This Craigslist ad seems to make it official. California-based vegan restaurant chain Native Foods Cafe will be opening their first East Coast location in Shirlington. Earlier, we reported that a restaurant that at least shared the same name was planning to open in the old Bear Rock Cafe space. [Shirlington Village Blog, Shirlington Village Blogspot]
Charlie Davies Signs with D.C. United — Soccer phenom Charlie Davies will be playing for D.C. United this season, on loan from the French club FC Sochaux. Davies is still trying to get up to full-speed after suffering serious injuries in crash on the GW Parkway in October 2009. The crash, which killed one female passenger, happened on the Arlington section of the GW Parkway, just past Memorial Bridge. [Washington Post, FanHouse]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Speaking in front of TV cameras and about 15 audience members at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Route 50, immigrant advocates said the bills represent the kind of “divisive, partisan politics” that Virginia’s immigrant community has “always feared.”
“Now more than ever we cannot be silent, we have to act,” said Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez, an Arlington County School Board member and a board member of Northern Virginia Community College. “We have to defeat all these anti-immigrant bills.”
Violand-Sanchez said she was particularly concerned about HB 1465, which passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a vote of 75-24. The bill would deny undocumented students the opportunity to attend public colleges, including community colleges, in Virginia. Violand-Sanchez said the bill would affect about 200 undocumented Northern Virginia Community College students who are currently paying the out-of-state tuition rate.
“We cannot create a permanent underclass of marginalized young people who are not allowed to continue to their education,” she said. “These students work hard to pay for their education… Will we close the door to them now?”
Melanie Maron Pell, Director of the American Jewish Committee of Washington, which supports immigrant rights, said there’s an economic argument to be made for the defeat of HB 1465.