Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and some of his Democratic colleagues believe most children up for a hearing at Arlington’s immigration court are being treated fairly — but they worry that could soon change.
Beyer, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and several other members of Congress sat in for some hearings at the federal immigration court in Crystal City today (Thursday), and broadly came away pleased with what they saw, despite the chaos surrounding the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating children from families at the Mexican border.
Yet Beyer and his fellow Democrats fear what might happen should leadership at the court change. They’ve heard rumors that Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge at the Department of Justice, could soon start hearing cases in Arlington, and they’re disturbed by his history.
Weil attracted nationwide attention after testifying that he believes children as young as 3 years old can represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Though all of the kids the members of Congress saw Thursday had legal representation, the Democrats expressed disbelief that any judge would decide whether a toddler should be deported without a lawyer present.
“It’s really disturbing, especially because we understand [Weil] is training other judges,” Beyer told reporters. “Look at all the conversations we have about the poor decisions of our 20-year-olds… The thought that even a 12-year-old, 13-year-old can make good decisions in court is silly.”
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) noted that many of the cases the congressional delegation observed involved complex asylum applications, underscoring just how complicated an immigration hearing could be even for adults who speak English. She believes it would be “insane” to ask a child to attempt to navigate the process.
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) felt Arlington’s courthouse generally represented “the best process possible” for kids seeking asylum. But she added that even this court only had Spanish translation services available, when people coming from somewhere like Guatemala could speak one of the country’s other 22 languages instead.
Beyer said Congress should act to provide funding for lawyers for immigrant children, given that that nonprofits stepping up to help can only provide representation for a small fraction of kids making their way through the system. With President Trump tweeting that immigrants should be deported “with no judges or court cases,” the Democrats said they realized the odds were long, but said it would be worth the effort.
“We can do this if we have the will and compassion to do this,” Hoyer said. “This is America. We believe in due process.”
President Trump may have agreed to stop separating families at the Mexican border, but Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) fear the administration could soon concoct a plan to jail immigrant families indefinitely instead.
At a gathering of local faith leaders and immigrant advocates today (Thursday) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd), both senators expressed relief that Trump backed down from his policy of breaking up migrant families that attempt to cross the border illegally.
Yet Warner lamented that Trump’s executive order “raises as many questions as it answers,” and the senators are deeply concerned that the White House will now try to convince Congress to pass some sort of compromise legislation on the issue.
Trump’s order yesterday (Wednesday) required families to be detained together until their criminal and immigration proceedings are completed — but a federal court order requires children to be released after 20 days, and Kaine and Warner both worry that Trump could try to push through legislation to supersede that order and remove any limit on detaining families.
“We could see version two, or version three, of this, that will get presented as something that’s not as bad as what came before,” Kaine said. “But I’m not going to agree to something bad just because he’s being cruel.”
Priscilla Martinez, a fourth-generation Mexican American with Loudoun’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society, worried that such an approach by Trump might prove effective.
While she noted that the public may be outraged about the family separation policy now, she’s concerned that people could become “anesthetized” to less extreme versions of it. She drew a parallel to the public reaction to Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries — while the initial executive order prompted mass protests, the administration subsequently proposed less draconian versions of the same policy that gradually drew less attention.
“They could easily put something forward that’s still bad, but people accept it because it’s less awful that what came before,” Martinez said. “I’m concerned it’s so bad right now, people might run out of steam.”
That’s why Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s immigrant advocacy program, urged the senators to not accept that this debate is over simply because Trump has changed the family separation policy. He suggested that they press the administration to allow children to be released to other family members instead of being held in a jail cell, a process he says Trump has worked to make increasingly difficult.
“Kids don’t belong in cages, and that’s the bottom line,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “Whether it’s the same cage as their mother and father or two separate cages… Any solution that results in kids being kept in cages is no solution at all.”
Kaine and Warner agreed to that request, and they’re pledging to visit Virginia’s detention facilities for immigrant children in Bristow and Staunton to inspect their conditions. They do take some hope from reports today that the Border Patrol plans to stop referring migrant parents who cross the border illegally with children for criminal charges, but they say they can’t be sure what the White House will do next.
“This administration has no plan,” Warner said. “As we’ve seen continuously, he zigs and zags on an hourly basis.”
The issue of children being separated from parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border has prompted both words and actions from Arlington’s members of Congress.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) yesterday signed on as a cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act — Democratic-backed legislation that would end the family separation policy that has sparked nationwide and even international outrage.
“Donald Trump’s family separation policy is immoral and Congress must put a stop to it,” said Beyer, in a statement. “Treating legal asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing violence which endangers their lives, in such a cruel manner is a violation of our country’s values and internationally-accepted agreements on human rights.”
Beyer yesterday also visited two fathers who were separated from their children at the border and being held at a detention center in Maryland. TV cameras were there as Beyer and his wife Megan described a “very emotional, very difficult” discussion with the men.
Today I visited an ICE detention facility outside Baltimore with @Call_Me_Dutch.
There we spoke for an hour with two fathers, Carlos and Mario, who had been separated from their children, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, for months.
What they told us was so disturbing: pic.twitter.com/MZTifSlKzc
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) June 19, 2018
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), meanwhile, have written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, requesting an “immediate response” to a number of questions about the family separations, including:
- Whether any facilities in Virginia are being used to house children separated from their families
- The rationale for the “zero tolerance” policy that prompts separations
- The plan for detention infrastructure to hold asylum seekers
- Resources for separated children, including medical and mental health services
- Specific information on the conditions for girls and toddlers
- Plans for facilitating family reunification
Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recalled four members of the Virginia National Guard from their service on the U.S. border.
Today I'm recalling four Virginia National Guard soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona. Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that support the inhumane policy of separating children from their parents. https://t.co/AmdbE0XoFi
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) June 19, 2018
There’s more local fallout from the family separation issue. The Methodist church is considering expelling Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a member over his enforcement of the policy and justification of it by citing a Bible verse.
News outlets reported that Sessions is a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, in addition to a Methodist church in his home state of Alabama.
Photo via @RepDonBeyer
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran is prompting condemnation from Arlington’s congressional delegation.
Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he plans to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, reversing an agreement hammered out by President Barack Obama’s administration and a variety of other countries to slow Iran’s progress toward building a nuclear weapon. Both of Virginia’s senators, in addition to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), were quick to criticize Trump’s move as one that will undermine the nation’s security.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is up for re-election this year, was a particularly vocal backer of the Iran deal. He issued a statement today blasting Trump’s move.
President Trump showed us again today that when he says “America First,” he actually means “America alone.” By violating the Iran deal, the President is creating a new global nuclear crisis while we’re trying to address another one with North Korea. His decision to break from the deal makes our country less safe by damaging our diplomatic credibility, weakening our alliances, and reopening the door for Iran to start enriching uranium. The Iran deal states that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” Why would the President blow up this deal and free Iran of that obligation? President Trump has set us on a dangerous road where war becomes more likely, especially as his advisers beat the drums for regime change, which should never be a goal of U.S policy.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was similarly critical of the president’s decision.
The President’s refusal to waive certain sanctions on Iran sets in motion the dismantling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has successfully prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons. While the JCPOA was far from perfect, by signing the agreement, Iran gave up 98 percent of its uranium stockpile, dismantled 2/3 of its centrifuges, rendered its heavy water nuclear reactor unusable, and agreed to unprecedented inspections that provide critical insight into, and early warning about, any attempts by Iran to accelerate its nuclear program. Trump Administration leaders, all parties to the agreement, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with its verification, have agreed that Iran has complied with its terms.
Simply withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA will not benefit the American people and U.S. national security: it will only succeed in driving a wedge between us and our allies, whose help we need to enforce any future sanctions regime against Iran, and will effectively green light Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Withdrawing from this agreement makes the United States, and the world, less secure.
Beyer also condemned the move in a statement.
President Trump’s extremely shortsighted decision to exit the JCPOA is another major step backward for our national security. Simply put, the President’s actions have made a nuclear-armed Iran more likely, and therefore made the world a more dangerous place. It will have serious negative consequences for the stability of the region, for our relationships with our allies, and will further embolden hardliners in Iran who want to develop nuclear weapons.
Now it is left to our European allies to attempt to pick up the pieces of the agreement and hold Iran to its commitments, even though we have not honored ours. Functionally, they are being held responsible for this administration’s irresponsibility.
At a time when we are trying denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, ideally with a similarly robust monitoring and verification scheme, this decision severely damages the United States’ credibility as a diplomatic and negotiating partner.
Both the US defense and intelligence communities, including Secretary Mattis, General Dunford, and the IAEA, have consistently certified Iranian compliance with the agreement and the robust nature of the verification regime. The President has embarked upon a path where the risks of both Iranian nuclearization and war with Iran are significantly increased. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that President Trump has taken this path with a thoughtful plan in mind to address both the significant ongoing issues posed by the Iran as well as the renewed threat of nuclearization.
Once again and to our detriment, the President has shown that he will place domestic political considerations and his disdain for his predecessor above our national interest and global reputation.
Photo via @WhiteHouse
AWLA Rescues Kittens from Cold Night — Arlington animal control officers saved the lives of three small kittens found freezing in a window well Tuesday night. All three were placed in an incubator to warm up and are now in a foster home. [Facebook]
Steyer Town Hall Targets Trump, Dems — About 100 people attended a town hall meeting in Pentagon City Tuesday night in support of impeaching President Trump. While Trump was the main topic of conversation, the meeting’s organizer, billionaire Tom Steyer, also criticized Democrats, particularly those that would not vote for impeachment. [Washington Free Beacon]
Alington Company Expanding, Moving — “Arlington-based Bioinformatics Inc. has been very busy lately — moving, expanding and acquiring. A research and advisory firm for life science and diagnostic companies, Bioinformatics just moved from its home in Courthouse to a larger 8,000-square-foot headquarters at the top of Ballston Tower. The company plans to invest $175,000 and add 27 new jobs by April as part of the expansion.” [Washington Business Journal]
Billionaire Tom Steyer is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Arlington tomorrow (March 20) about the “need to impeach” President Donald Trump.
The Tuesday event is part of a nationwide event series that Steyer has launched since Trump took office, in which he makes what he calls “the patriotic case for impeachment.”
Town hall attendees can ask questions during the program as Steyer details how “to support the resistance against Trump’s administration” and calls on Maryland and Virginia lawmakers to act, according to a press release. A second town hall is planned tomorrow in Prince George’s County, Md.
More via a press release:
Arlington residents are heavily concentrated in Virginia’s 8th district, which has a strong Democratic majority. Yet Congressmember Don Beyer voted against impeachment in two separate floor votes despite clear support for impeachment from his constituents. In Prince George’s County, Congressmember Anthony Brown represents Maryland’s deeply Democratic 4th district. Even with calls to action from his constituents, Brown has also voted against impeachment in both floor votes. The town halls will gather local voters demanding explanations from Beyer and Brown on their decisions not to back Trump’s impeachment.
“Donald Trump has put our entire country at risk, and America needs strong leaders who will stand up to him,” said Steyer. “Those who condemn Trump but do nothing to back their words with action are enabling the damage he is inflicting on our people and our democracy. Both Congressmembers Don Beyer and Anthony Brown have repeatedly ignored their constituents’ voices by voting no on impeachment. Since the only thing Beyer and Brown should be contemplating is their constituents’ well-being and best interests, we need to know why. The people deserve representatives who refuse to back down on our shared principles, and we will ensure their voices are heard.”
Steyer launched the Need to Impeach campaign on October 20, 2017 through national television and social media ads. More than 5 million people have since signed on to support the campaign, creating a digital army that several political strategists call one of the most powerful political tools in the Democratic party. So far, six national commercials have aired, reaching more than 2 billion viewers through television and more than 454 million through social media. A seventh commercial — the first in Spanish — will begin airing nationwide this week.
The press release did not note where nor exactly when the events will take place. Attendees are asked to RSVP in order to find out additional event details.
Photo via Need to Impeach
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.
The Trump administration’s proposal to sell Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport as part of its $200 billion infrastructure plan has been greeted by a chorus of opposition from local lawmakers.
“Trump isn’t trying to fix our infrastructure, he’s trying to sell it off,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “This ‘plan’ is nothing but smoke and mirrors.”
The proposal also suggests that the federal government might divest itself of assets like the GW Parkway and the D.C. Aqueduct.
“It is particularly outrageous that Trump suggested selling off key local infrastructure,” Beyer said. “The President didn’t consult any state or local leaders about any of this, but if he had we would have told him that our community ardently opposes anything of the kind.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined in the opposition, tweeting the following.
Selling off property like the GW Parkway, Dulles Airport, and Reagan National will not improve our infrastructure – it will only mean higher costs for the traveling public.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 12, 2018
Several state legislators from Northern Virginia, including two who represent parts of Arlington, put out a joint press release expressing “strong opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to sell these two critical national assets.”
“President Trump is gambling with two of our country’s most important transportation assets without considering the high economic stakes,” said Delegate Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan, Jr. (D-McLean). “From Chicago’s Midway Airport to Newburgh’s Stewart International Airport, attempted airport privatization has failed repeatedly, costing taxpayers money and creating economic uncertainty. Taking this risk with airports so critical to Virginia’s economy, not to mention the operation of our nation’s Capital, is simply irresponsible.”
[ … ]
“These are not just casinos that you can walk away from,” said Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria). “The loss of federal support for these crucial national assets would have an unthinkable impact on our regional economy. The president should not be financing tax cuts for the rich on the backs of Virginia taxpayers and commuters.”
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) is raining pointed criticism on President Donald Trump’s parade.
Calling the president’s idea of a grand military parade in the nation’s capital “terrible” and “an embarrassing misuse of our military leaders’ time,” Beyer says he is also concerned about the impact of tanks and large military vehicles on local roads.
Beyer is particularly concerned that if the parade follows the same route as Trump’s inaugural parade, as suggested, it could take heavy equipment over the deteriorating Memorial Bridge, which is currently undergoing major repairs.
The congressman issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon.
Most of the reasons why Trump’s idea of huge military parade is a terrible one are immediately obvious. Our military is already strong without having to waste millions of dollars on a parade that could be better spent improving veterans’ services. In 2018 such displays are reminiscent of authoritarians than they are of healthy democracies. Planning this vanity project for President Trump is already an embarrassing misuse of our military leaders’ time, which should be focused on keeping Americans safe.
But there is also regional opposition to this idea because of its local impact. At least one Department of Defense official has already expressed concerns that running heavy military equipment of the kind Trump has asked for could damage local infrastructure. We are still waiting to see the details of Trump’s long-heralded national infrastructure plan, and I fear that my constituents may see their roads ‘chewed up’ before they see any progress toward rebuilding roads and bridges.
Tanks rumbled and troops marched over the Memorial Bridge in 1991 as part of the National Victory Day Parade celebrating the end of the Gulf War.
Update at 9:30 p.m. — The shutdown is over after legislation passed Congress and was signed by President Trump.
Federal workers will receive back pay for any time lost during the shutdown.
More via a press release from Rep. Don Beyer’s office:
Legislative language mirroring a bill offered by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to protect the pay of federal workers during the government shutdown was passed by Congress today as part of a larger temporary funding bill. The inclusion of text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act will guarantee that the entire federal workforce receives back pay for the time during which appropriations lapsed.
“It is deeply disappointing that Congress was unable to prevent a government shutdown, but the passage of the our bill’s language should at least minimize the damage to rank-and-file civil servants,” said Rep. Beyer. “I thank my colleague Rep. Wittman for standing up for the federal workforce again, and hope that this will be the last time that this bill is necessary.”
Text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act was included in HR 195, which passed both chambers of Congress today. The bill had nearly 100 bipartisan cosponsors.
Earlier: The federal government could re-open as early as tomorrow after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a short-term spending plan today (Monday).
Senators voted 81-18 to end debate — a procedural move — on a three-week bill that would fund the government through February 8. The bill would give Congress more time to negotiate a long-term spending package.
The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the plan today, if it passes the Senate.
The government partially shut down at midnight on Saturday (January 20).
But the impasse appears to have ended in the Senate after Republicans committed to holding a vote on the future of those who were brought to the country illegally as children and protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump announced he would end the program in March.
In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) blamed Republicans for the shutdown and said they were “deeply disappointed” that it could not stay open. But they said they are “heartened” by discussions that could help resolve many long-standing issues.
“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military,” they said. “Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.”
Warner and Kaine’s joint statement is after the jump.
“We voted against the House Republican Continuing Resolution on Friday night because it left unaddressed too many priorities important to Virginians. We remain deeply disappointed that our Republican colleagues refused to keep the government open this weekend while we finalized a long-term deal on these issues. President Trump and Republican leadership have hurt Virginia and our military by governing from crisis-to-crisis and being unwilling to compromise.
“However, we are heartened by our work with more than 20 Senators from both sides of the aisle this weekend to create a bipartisan path forward to give Virginians long-term certainty and protect Dreamers.
“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military. Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.
“For more than three years, the Republican majority has blocked any viable effort to fix our broken immigration system. As recently as Friday night, Leader McConnell refused to commit to taking up the DREAM Act with any urgency. Today, Republican leadership has finally agreed to bring bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers to the floor in the next three weeks, and both parties – as well as the American public – will hold them to it.”
Immigrants Afraid to Report Crimes — President Donald Trump’s hawkishness on immigration enforcement has apparently led to a drop in crimes reported in some of the country’s largest immigrant communities, including in Arlington. Per a new report: “In Arlington, Virginia, domestic-assault reports in one Hispanic neighborhood dropped more than eighty-five per cent in the first eight months after Trump’s Inauguration, compared with the same period the previous year.” [New Yorker]
Lawmakers React to Immigration Decision — Local lawmakers are speaking out against a Trump administration decision to end temporary protected status for some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants. “Donald Trump’s open hostility to immigrants runs against the values and history of this country,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), while Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called the decision “heartless.” [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Ramp Near Pentagon Closing at Night — The ramp from eastbound Route 27 to northbound Route 110, near the Pentagon, will be closed each night through Friday for bridge deck work, according to VDOT. “Traffic will be detoured via Route 27, George Washington Memorial Parkway and I-395 back to northbound Route 110,” the agency said. [Twitter]
InsideNova Sold — The parent company of the Arlington Sun Gazette has sold its InsideNova website along with two other local weekly newspapers, while retaining the Sun Gazette papers. Sun Gazette articles will reportedly still be published on InsideNova. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington’s Top 10 Press Releases of 2017 — Arlington County has posted an article ranking the 10 most popular press releases of 2017 on its website. The article concludes that “2017 was a good year in Arlington County, laying the foundation for great years to come.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Plans for Boozy Taco Bell — A Taco Bell “Cantina” that “mixes the traditional Taco Bell fare with new shareable menu items and alcoholic beverages including twisted freezes, beer and wine” is coming to Old Town Alexandria. [Washington Business Journal]
More Fog Photos — The fog covering parts of the region this morning made for some great photos, particularly among those who trained their lenses on the half-covered Washington monument. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
Frigid Weather Makes Firefighting More Difficult — The persistently cold weather may be responsible for a recent spike in structure fire calls. Meanwhile, the deep freeze is “taking [firefighters’] biggest weapon, water, and using it against them.” [WJLA]
Beyer Blasts Trump Tweet — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following this morning in response to a tweet from President Trump: “Trump opens 2018 with calls for prosecution of his political enemies… Every Member of Congress swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Protecting rule of law must not be partisan.” [Twitter]
Grassley Tweets About Local TV — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is not a fan of the History Channel’s dearth of shows about history. He tweeted the following over the weekend after apparently watching public television channel WHUT: “Just watched history on An American Experience abt Thomas Edison the inventor Thx Comcast on Arlington Va Channel 19 DO U GET MESSAGE HISTORY CHANNEL???” [Twitter]
Pacers Owner Keeps Marathon Streak Alive — Yorktown High School alum, Pace the Nation host and Pacers Running owner Chris Farley has kept his two-decade streak of running a sub-three-hour marathon every year alive. He did so by completing a hastily-organized but official 26.2 mile course around Hains Point in 2:52:53 on Friday. [Washington Post]
ACFD Reminding Residents to Close the Door — The Arlington County Fire Department is reminding residents to sleep with their bedroom doors closed and to close doors behind them in the event of a fire, to help prevent flames from spreading. [Twitter]
Last Call: Advertiser Thank Yous — The website you’re currently reading is 100% advertiser supported. If you think ARLnow is an important resource for the Arlington community, we would greatly appreciate if you could help us thank our advertisers by sending one of them a postcard through this online form.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The new GOP tax bill has prompted numerous Arlington taxpayers to prepay their 2018 taxes more than a year ahead of time.
The bill, which was just signed into law by President Trump this morning, caps State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions at $10,000. For many Arlington taxpayers with pricey homes, this means they will lose part of their deduction next year and thus potentially pay higher federal taxes.
To counter that, some Arlingtonians are planning to take a higher deduction on their 2017 taxes by prepaying their property tax for future years.
Arlington County and other Virginia localities allow residents to make tax deposits. County Treasurer Carla de la Pava tells ARLnow.com that more than $1 million in tax deposits have been prepaid by 144 residents as of Friday morning.
The Treasurer’s Office has been “inundated with people trying to pay in advance” and is expecting the prepayments to continue through the end of the year, de la Pava said. The first prepayment was made by an attorney about two weeks ago, when the bill was first passed by a narrow Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
“It’s interesting because in Arlington [prepayments] started much earlier than anywhere else in the state,” de la Pava said, noting that it “has been a really big topic of conversation” on the Treasurers Association of Virginia email listserv.
Some prepayers are depositing more than a year of taxes in advance, while others are paying whichever potion of next year’s they can afford, we’re told.
Tax deposits have been an option for many years, but the Treasurer’s Office hasn’t seen a prepayment surge like this at any point in recent memory.
“We have never seen these volumes,” said de la Pava.
Tax deposits are invested by the Treasurer’s Office in “very safe” investments, earning a small return for the county.
De la Pava is encouraging taxpayers — particularly those paying the Alternative Minimum Tax — to consult with a CPA or tax expert before deciding whether to prepay. More from the treasurer’s website:
If you are interested in prepaying your 2018 taxes, the Treasurer’s Office can accept tax deposits on active Real Estate accounts. While our office does accept tax deposits, we are not experts in federal tax law and are not able to offer any advice, guidance, or opinion on whether or not your deposits will be deductible on your 2017 federal tax returns. If you have questions about making a tax deposit on your Arlington real estate, please email us at [email protected] or call 703-228-3090.
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Iwo Jima memorial is set to get a new visitor center as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that was just signed by President Trump.
It instructs the Secretary of the Interior to build a “structure for visitor services to include a public restroom facility.” It does not specify where the center will be built, but the text says it will be “in the area” of the memorial, the formal name of which is the Marine Corps War Memorial. A Beyer spokesman said this was the “final hurdle” to getting the visitor center built.
Beyer, whose district includes Arlington County, introduced a bill authorizing construction of the restrooms last year, funded by a gift from local philanthropist David Rubenstein.
Work began earlier this year to revamp the memorial, including washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering; repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged; improving lighting; repaving roads and footpaths; and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.
Rubenstein pledged more than $5 million for the entire project and new visitor center.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, 46 Democrats said the lack of action to fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments is hurting small business owners and the self-employed.
President Donald Trump announced he would end the payments, which help subsidize health insurance premiums, last month.
The Democrats said that House Republicans are blocking a “key solution” by not funding the CSRs through legislation, and it will only make things harder for individuals and business owners.
“We are hearing from entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employed individuals who are being disproportionately impacted by the President’s decision,” they wrote. “We ask that you support our innovator economy and mitigate this financial burden by fulfilling cost sharing reduction payments.”
The full letter is after the jump.
Dear Speaker Ryan:
We are deeply concerned about the President’s decision to end the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) and the devastating financial impact it will have on small businesses, working families, and the innovator economy. We ask that you commit to fund the CSRs and eliminate this barrier to innovation.
As you know, CSRs make health insurance more affordable by reducing cost sharing and out-of-pocket expenses like co-payments and deductibles in the non-group or individual market. In 2016, CSRs alleviated the cost of medical expenses for over 6.4 million enrollees. Now that President Trump has ended the Administration’s payment of the CSRs, absent a subsequent appropriation of funds or other action by Congress, we could see devastating impacts on our innovator economy.
We know that failure to fund CSRs will drive up premiums as insurers cover the cost and that some insurers will be forced out of the non-group market as a result. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) anticipate that most insurance commissioners would permit insurers to substantially increase premiums in the marketplaces. This will primarily hurt millions of middle-class individuals, like the small businesses and self-employed individuals in our districts, who earn too much to qualify for premium assistance and will bear the full brunt of any rate increase. According to the Brookings Institution, uncertainty about these payments is perhaps the biggest threat to stability in the individual market. CBO and the JCT also estimate that this action also increases the federal deficit, on net, by $194 billion from 2017 through 2026.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly one in five non-group marketplace consumers are small business owners or self-employed individuals. The Treasury Department identified non-group marketplace coverage as an important source of health insurance coverage for small business owners and the self-employed, noting that it provides insurance for a large share of self-employed individuals, particularly for middle-income workers. The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education highlights how the CSR eligible plans enabled small business owners and self-employed individuals to more easily obtain affordable health insurance and pursue entrepreneurial goals, also indicating that options like eliminating CSRs would disproportionately hurt self-employed and small businesses of less than 50 employees.
We are hearing from entrepreneurs, small business owners, and self-employed individuals who are being disproportionately impacted by the President’s decision. We ask that you support our innovator economy and mitigate this financial burden by fulfilling cost sharing reduction payments.