Progressives have to be “relentless and indefatigable” in championing Latino issues, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said today (Monday) during a roundtable discussion with local Latino leaders.
One panelist, whose DACA status is expiring in 300 days, said that the Democratic party had “absolutely failed” to protect undocumented immigrants. Many panelists, however, seemed hopeful that Beyer would continue supporting the community.
Andreas Tobar, the executive director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center and an Arlington resident for the past 38 years, asked for a “glimpse of hope” and a sense of the battles that the community will have to fight before there is some relief, particularly for those facing a loss of temporary protected status.
“It seems like the immigrant community is totally under fire here from the [Trump] administration,” Tobar said.
Another panelist, Jorge Figueredo, the executive director of Edu-Futuro and a native of Colombia, discussed his desire to see the Latino community unite behind issues not just related to immigration, like workforce development.
The congressman told the group that he didn’t “want to create false hopes” that the Trump administration wouldn’t continue with unraveling current immigration protections and that it is “hard to create the center by yourself,” agreeing that a stronger, more united front would help their causes.
Tannia Talento, an Arlington School Board member, told the story of how her family was scared that her uncle had been arrested during immigration raids in the 1980s, and how she had always believed that working hard would open doors for her family and others.
“Even though we can’t push it open now, maybe in a year or two from now, maybe we will,” she said. “I just beg you to not stop trying.”
The overall message from the group was clear, as the panelist whose DACA status would expire in 300 days put it: the Arlington Latino community didn’t want to be seen merely as a voting bloc, but as a collection of voices.
Beyer told ARLnow.com after the discussion that the specific recommendations from local leaders, such as a weekly newsletter from Beyer’s office focused on immigrant stories, could have an impact. However, he found the overall message to be the most pressing point.
“The biggest takeaway for me is that I can’t give up, that too many people’s lives are at stake,” he said. “We need to be relentless and patient and just keeping working.”
“You heard too many people saying, ‘gosh is it ever going to change?'” he continued. “We just have to be relentless and indefatigable.”
The congressman cited several examples of his support for the Latino community, including his co-sponsorship of legislation to protect sensitive locations, such as churches and hospitals, from immigration enforcement efforts, before the diving into the panel discussion.