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by Alex Koma May 21, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) says anonymous threats prompted him to request that police monitor a Indivisible Arlington town hall last weekend, and now he’s offering to meet with the pro-immigrant activists who confronted him at that gathering.

The question of who requested the involvement of Arlington County Police at the event, after some LaColectiVA activists asked some tough questions of Lopez on his ties to a contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been on the minds of several meeting attendees and even other Democratic lawmakers in the days following the meeting.

The police who manage protection for state lawmakers — the Virginia Division of Capitol Police — told ARLnow last week that Lopez had indeed requested a police presence at the event, and Arlington County Police confirmed that they’d agreed to check in on the meeting, though they’re adamant that they were not actively monitoring it.

Now, in his first public comments since the May 12 meeting at Arlington Central Library, Lopez told ARLnow in a prepared statement that he’s been notifying the Capitol Police about any public event he’s attended since last December. He chalks that up to “unwanted anonymous threats,” echoing claims he made at the meeting that some members of LaColectiVA had crossed a line when protesting his consulting work for the ICE contractor.

“Since the Indivisible Legislators’ Forum was widely publicized on social media my office followed protocol and alerted Colonel Pike’s [the chief of the Capitol Police] office,” Lopez wrote. “I have subsequently learned that an Arlington police officer came to the event before it began. The officer was alerted that his presence was not necessary and he left. In the middle of the Indivisible meeting a second officer arrived. He stated that he was there because he had been contacted by library security because of the noise. He spoke to the crowd briefly. The officer was told this presence was not needed and he also left.”

The arrival of that second officer prompted consternation among the crowd of activists, and a new round of shouting after the meeting had initially quieted down after a tense beginning. Indivisible Arlington has even since apologized for the presence of law enforcement at the event, and LaColectiVA’s leaders wrote in a statement this weekend that the police presence at the event amounts to “the criminalization of people of color.”

Nelson Lopez, a LaColectiVA organizer who attended the meeting, has been adamant that his group has never threatened Lopez in any way, and the group reiterated in its Saturday (May 19) statement that the delegate’s claims are “outright lies.”

LaColectiVA’s activists have been particularly frustrated that they feel like Lopez has ignored their requests to engage with them on the issue — Lopez reported on disclosure forms that the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia,  paid him $5,000 in 2014 and $10,000 in 2015 and 2016. He’s repeatedly stressed that he is barred from discussing that consulting work by a nondisclosure agreement.

However, in a letter to LaColectiVA’s leadership that Lopez provided to ARLnow, he points out that he’s met repeatedly with the group to discuss their concerns. He also offered to do so once again, “to discuss your concerns and ways that we can move forward on our areas of mutual interest.”

Yet Nelson Lopez noted that the delegate wants the meeting to be private and only with members of LaColectiVA’s leadership, which he feels would not satisfy the group’s efforts to encourage more public engagement on the issue.

“We have told him that the meeting needs to be public so that he can speak to the whole community, not just us,” he said.

by Alex Koma May 18, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Activists and lawmakers have been demanding to know who called police on protesters at a legislative town hall that descended into chaos last weekend, and now there is at least a partial answer.

ARLnow.com has learned that Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), the target of the pro-immigrant organizers’ ire, requested a police presence prior to the event.

Lopez and several other state lawmakers were attending a forum hosted by Indivisible Arlington at Central Library last Saturday (May 12), when activists with the group LaColectiVA used the gathering as a chance to press Lopez on his past consulting work for a contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Though the activists asked some heated questions of Lopez, the event remained on track until Arlington County police officers made their presence known, setting off a shouting match. Attendees accused Lopez of asking for officers to intervene in the event, given LaColectiVA’s previous protests of Lopez’s connections with the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia.

Now, the police who manage protection for state lawmakers — the Virginia Division of Capitol Police — tell ARLnow that Lopez’s office contacted them days in advance of the May 12 meeting to make sure police were on site.

“When a member of the General Assembly raises an issue of possible security concerns in their district, we can and do reach out to the local authorities on their behalf,” Joe Macenka, spokesman for the Capitol Police, wrote in an email. “In this case, Del. Lopez’s office did that. It is up to local law enforcement to respond accordingly.”

Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that her department heard from the Capitol Police on May 10, two days before the forum was planned, and she said “extra checks were requested for the event.” Savage says library security then called police, though they’d previously been made aware of the forum at Lopez’s request.

Lopez has yet to address the weekend’s events publicly, and an aide to the delegate has not responded to requests for comment.

(more…)

by Alex Koma May 16, 2018 at 2:55 pm 0

Organizers with the group Indivisible Arlington are apologizing for how they handled a town hall meeting that devolved into a shouting match after pro-immigrant activists asked some tough questions of Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49).

The grassroots group convened a public forum at Arlington’s Central Library last Saturday (May 13) featuring several state lawmakers, but Indivisible organizers felt compelled to call it off earlier than expected, as activists with the group LaColectiVa aggressively pressed Lopez on his past consulting work for a private company that contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a new statement today (Wednesday), Indivisible leaders defended the decision to end the meeting, as they felt participants were “unable to maintain a constructive dialogue.” However, they expressed regret about the presence of both library security and county police at the meeting, particularly after an Arlington police officer arrived at the meeting and set off a new round of protests from the LaColectiVA activists.

“We recognize the negative impact of their presence on meeting participants, especially people of color,” Indivisible organizers wrote. “We did not request the presence of Arlington law enforcement.”

The group is now urging meeting attendees to reach out to Indivisible to discuss “how we can best move forward together.”

Some people who attended the meeting believe Lopez is the one who needs to take the lead on smoothing things over, given the way he handled the situation.

“It’s very disheartening, because he’s not apologizing or discussing what happened there,” Nelson Lopez, an organizer with LaColectiVA, told ARLnow. “We just want to have a dialogue about this issue, and he’s consistently refused to do so.”

An aide to the delegate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nelson Lopez and other meeting attendees say they want to know whether or not Del. Lopez had anything to do with police officers heading to the meeting.

People at the gathering say LaColectiVA’s activists weren’t being overly disruptive when they first arrived, with one member of the group asking Lopez about his past work for the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia. Lopez reported on state disclosure forms that the group paid him $5,000 in 2014 and $10,000 in 2015 and 2016, and LaColectiVA has spent the last few months organizing protests around the issue.

A video of the forum posted on Facebook shows that Lopez and some activists briefly argued — Lopez insisted that a nondisclosure agreement bars him from discussing his past consulting work, and he insisted that work is not part of his “public life” in the General Assembly — but the meeting soon returned to normalcy.

Roughly 15 minutes later, a county police officer entered the room, setting off loud protests from members of LaColectiVA.

“The police were preemptively called, and that was what caused the disturbance in the first place,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist who attended the meeting. “The kids were petrified when the cops got there.”

Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says it was library staff who called the department about the arrival of the LaColectiVA protesters. But Tribbett and Nelson Lopez say they are interested in finding out if anyone asked the library staff to contact authorities, a call echoed by Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Arlington Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy on Twitter Wednesday.

Attendees are also urging Del. Alfonso Lopez to address an allegation made by another LaColectiVA organizer, Irma Corrado, who says Lopez threatened her as the meeting broke up.

She says Lopez told her “I know where you work, and my friend is a board member,” which she took as a threat that he’d get her fired. She declined to publicly reveal where she works.

Most of all, Nelson Lopez hopes the delegate takes this whole episode as an example of just how frustrated people are over his refusals to answer questions about his past ties to the ICE contractor.

“We just want to have a town hall, a public forum about this, so he can understand it’s not just some fringe group that has these feelings,” Lopez said. “We’re not trying to get rid of him, we’re trying to have a dialogue.”

Photo via Facebook

by ARLnow.com March 2, 2018 at 8:30 am 0

Golf Course Tax Bill Passes — A bill that would provide a massive tax break to two Arlington country clubs has passed the Virginia General Assembly. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), would cost Arlington $1.5 million or more in tax revenue. [Washington Post]

Military Couple Fights Wife’s Deportation — The wife of a retired Army special forces veteran was to face deportation in an Arlington-based immigration court next week, but the Dept. of Homeland Security is now offering to drop the proceedings. Prior to the reversal, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called said via social media: “Military families should not be targeted like this. It’s unconscionable.” [Military Times, Twitter]

Cherry Blossom Bloom Prediction — The National Park Service expects peak bloom for the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to take place March 17-20. [PoPville]

Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “The Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D) used a Feb. 28 meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee to introduce himself to the county’s GOP rank-and-file. ‘I look forward to the campaign,’ said Thomas Oh… an Army veteran and currently a contractor in Falls Church.” [InsideNova]

Marymount Joins New Conference — Marymount University in Arlington and five other schools have formed the new Atlantic East Conference within NCAA Division III. [Marymount University, Twitter]

County Seeking Budget Feedback — Arlington County is seeking feedback on its proposed budget. The online survey asks residents to weigh in on various priorities, including county employee raises, economic development, Metro funding, school funding, infrastructure investment and affordable housing. [SurveyMonkey]

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 26, 2018 at 2:15 pm 0

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.

by Anna Merod February 23, 2018 at 3:20 pm 0

At a ceremony in Arlington Thursday evening, ten students graduated from La Cocina, a bilingual culinary school for the unemployed or underemployed.

The culinary job training program holds classes for 12 weeks. The students then complete a four week paid internship at different hotels and restaurants.

The majority of students, 85 percent, graduate with a job at a local restaurant or hotel. Employers of program graduates include Washington’s Sfoglina restaurant, National Harbor’s MGM Casino and supermarket chain Wegmans. La Cocina has a partnership with 30 businesses, which take on program graduates.

Current La Cocina students are all Latino immigrants from across Central and South America. The program is hoping to soon expand its student body to include refugees, military veterans, and non-Latino immigrants.

This graduation marks almost 100 program graduates over 11 graduating classes since its inception in 2014. Patricia Funegra, La Cocina’s founder and CEO, was inspired after volunteering in 2012 at DC Central Kitchen, which trains low-income people for cooking careers.

“I just fell in love with the model and how the program was transforming lives, but at the same time I thought, ‘Oh my god Latinos are already in kitchens and they are not receiving this training,” said Funegra.

The graduates receive three certificates degrees after completing the program —  in culinary arts workforce development from Northern Virginia Community College, in food safety from the National Restaurant Association, and in food allergy prevention.

Students walked into their graduation ceremony at Ballston’s Mount Olivet Methodist Church to Pharrell’s “Happy” before listening to speeches that touched on the importance of hard work and perseverance.

“It wasn’t easy for you to get here,” said Daniela Hurtado, La Cocina’s program manager. “Each of you had a goal, each of you had a vision, and you gave it your best.”

One graduate, Jose Cordova, originally from Peru, shared his experience at La Cocina during the ceremony.

“Standing up every morning and coming here was hard,” he said. “But we [did not] give excuses and we are not to give it now nor ever.”

For Cordova, who will be working at Crystal City’s Hyatt Regency hotel, the classroom became his home and the professors were like family.

Another graduate, Luisa Gil, who was born in Honduras but immigrated to the United States nine months ago, feels very connected to the other students in the program. She told ARLnow.com that she’s excited to start a new challenge as a Sfoglina chef.

“Everyday I have to learn many, many things. I have to be at the same level as my coworkers, improving my skills and learning or discovering new ingredients and techniques,” Gil said.

The ceremony concluded with a reception of American, Mexican and Peruvian food made by the 12th class in the program. Throughout the program, as food is prepared and graded, it is boxed up and donated to shelters and affordable housing units.

“It’s kind of a circle of sustainability using those resources to feed our neighbors in need,” said Funegra.

by ARLnow.com January 29, 2018 at 9:15 am 0

ARLnow’s Eighth Birthday — Today is the eighth anniversary of the founding of ARLnow.com. Here is our first post ever.

Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.

Vihstadt Launches Re-election Bid — Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt made it official last night: he is running for re-election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has picked up at least one Democratic challenger so far. However, he again has the backing of a number of prominent Democrats, including fellow Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]

County Accepts Millions in Grant Funds — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $17.85 million in grant funding from three transportation entities that will be used for transit, bridge renovation and transportation capital projects in the County.” Among the projects is a new west entrance for the Ballston Metro station. [Arlington County]

County Board Accepts Immigration Donation — “The Arlington County Board today accepted a resident’s anonymous donation for a Citizenship Scholarship to help Arlingtonians pay the $725 federal application fee charged to those seeking to become U.S. citizens.” [Arlington County]

Man Convicted of 7-Eleven Robberies — A man arrested last year for a string of robberies has been convicted by a federal jury of three armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Among the crimes were two armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores in Arlington. [Alexandria News]

Arlington Lauded for Solar Program — The U.S. Department of Energy has named Arlington County a “SolSmart” community “for making it faster, easier and more affordable for Arlington homes and businesses to go solar.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Flickr photo by John Sonderman

by Chris Teale January 22, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

The Arlington County Board will debate accepting an anonymous donation from a resident to help immigrants pay filing fees on citizenship applications.

A private citizen made the $7,000 donation to the county’s Department of Human Services for a scholarship fund that will pay a portion of the costs to file an N-400 form, the Application for Naturalization.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s website, the filing fee is $640, with an extra $85 fee for biometric testing added in some cases for a total of $725.

USCIS waives the fee for applicants whose income is below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and reduces the fee for applicants whose income is between 151 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

But despite the waivers, county staff said that sometimes people can struggle to pay the reduced fees.

“However, some applicants who qualify for the reduced fee and other applicants who are required to pay the full fee still have difficulty paying for their application,” staff wrote in a report. “As a result, they often delay applying for naturalization even when they are eligible and prepared for their interview.”

Under the proposal, applicants at 151-200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines could receive a $200 scholarship, while those at 201-250 percent could get $360. Applicants’ income will be determined based on adjusted gross income, while they must prove county residency and show they reach USCIS’ English language proficiency guidelines.

Anyone who applies must make an appointment and meet in person for an interview at the Community Outreach Program at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street, Suite 523).

They would be notified within two weeks if they are successful, and would receive a check from DHS made out to USCIS. The applicant would then be responsible for mailing that check and the rest of the filing fee with their application.

Staff recommended the County Board approve the scholarship at its meeting Saturday (January 27).

by ARLnow.com January 9, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

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]

by ARLnow.com December 11, 2017 at 8:00 am 0

Planning for Transportation Changes in Rosslyn — “Local officials are now partnering with developers to make more improvements to help convince the next big corporate tenant to pick Rosslyn.” [Bisnow]

Teavana to Remain Open — Set to close next year, the Teavana store at Pentagon City mall is now expected to remain open thanks to a judge’s ruling against parent company Starbucks. [Washington Business Journal]

Lopez’s Detention Center Work Criticized — “Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, a Democrat who has represented a Hispanic­-heavy South Arlington district since 2012, was paid more than $5,000 a year in 2014 and more than $10,000 a year in 2015 and 2016 by Immigration Centers of America (ICA), which operates a detention center in Farmville, Va. , according to his state financial disclosure reports.” [Washington Post]

Holiday Events for Incarcerated Parents — Today and tomorrow, the Arlington County jail will be hosting a pair of “special events to allow incarcerated mothers and fathers to visit with their children during the winter holidays.” [Arlington County]

ACPD Show Goes On Despite Snow — The Arlington County Police Department’s “Operation Santa” performance, featuring cops donning costumes and dancing for children in the community, went on Saturday despite the snowy weather. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by ARLnow.com December 6, 2017 at 8:45 am 0

Disparities in New Middle School Boundaries — “Under a staff plan slated to go to the School Board Dec. 14, middle schools will have economically-disadvantaged populations ranging from 1 percent of the student body at Williamsburg Middle School to 52 percent of the student body at Kenmore Middle School, with the other schools falling in between.” [InsideNova]

Winner of Marine Corps Marathon Works at 7-Eleven — The winner of this year’s Marine Corps Marathon lives in Nauck and works at an Arlington 7-Eleven store. Desta Beriso Morkama, a 32-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, arrived in the U.S. in September 2016. He has been receiving training and assistance settling into his new Arlington life from a number of local people and groups, including local running coach Jay Jacob Wind. [Falls Church News-Press]

JBG Installing Giant Screens at Central Place — JBG Smith plans to exceed the county-imposed public art requirement at its new Central Place development, thanks to a project that will install giant screens in various places around the apartment and office building. The screens will display moving images, including artwork and nature scenes. [Washington Business Journal]

Hybla Valley = The Next Shirlington? — Fairfax County has big plans for a car-oriented neighborhood south of Alexandria: “The plans also include a 3.1-mile extension of the Yellow Line that would connect the Huntington station to the Hybla Valley section of Richmond Highway, in hopes of creating a pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhood akin to nearby Shirlington.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Joe Green

by ARLnow.com September 28, 2017 at 8:30 am 0

Car Fire on 23rd Street N. — A car was engulfed in flames on 23rd Street N. near the Overlee pool last night just before 6:30 p.m. The fire department arrived on scene and quickly extinguished the fire. [Twitter]

Local Tech Firm Benefiting from TrumpGiant Oak, a low-profile data mining firm based in Clarendon, has been awarded nearly $3 million in contracts from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Donald Trump took office. Most of the contracts are for “social media data analytics.” [Forbes]

Arlington On-Time Grad Rate Dips — “Arlington Public Schools’ on-time-graduation rate dipped slightly in 2017, remaining roughly on par with the state average, according to figures reported Sept. 27. The school system’s on-time-graduation rate of 90.8 percent was down from 91.1 percent a year before and the lowest since 2012.” [InsideNova]

No ‘Code Red’ Days This Year — Summer is over and the D.C. area got through it with no “code red” and fewer “code orange” low air quality days. “We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the region’s air quality thanks to more than a decade of action and coordination at all levels of government,” said Hans Riemer, chair of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee. [MWCOG]

Road Closures for Shirlington Oktoberfest — Campbell Avenue and part of S. Randolph Street in Shirlington will be closed most of the day Saturday for the annual Shirlington Oktoberfest, which runs from noon to 7 p.m. [Arlington County]

County Awarded for Economic Development Efforts — “Arlington Economic Development (AED) has been honored with three Excellence in Economic Development Awards by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The awards were presented at a ceremony earlier this month during the IEDC Annual Conference in Toronto.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Chris Teale September 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

An annual multicultural street festival this Saturday (September 23) will bring together members of various immigrant populations that live throughout Arlington County.

Local nonprofit Prio Bangla will host its sixth annual free street festival from 1-7:30 p.m. at 880 S. Walter Reed Drive, near Columbia Pike. Its motto this year, according to organizers, is “Let’s Celebrate the Cultural Diversity.” They expect between 5,000 and 8,000 attendees.

The event includes vendors of traditional foods, handcrafts, arts, jewelry and art as well as local businesses. Other highlights will be a parade and live music and dancing at the county’s mobile stage.

“During this event, our goal is not only to promote any specific culture and heritage, but also to participate in a cultural exchange by giving opportunity to other communities living and growing here with our rich cultural beauty and performances,” organizers wrote.

The nonprofit received a Space & Service Grant from the county in July for FY 2018, which provides it with performance and rehearsal space as well as technical services.

Arlington County Police will close 9th Street S. from S. Walter Reed Drive to S. Highland Street from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to accommodate the event. Street parking will be restricted, and drivers should look out for temporary “No Parking” signs.

Photo via Prio Bangla.

by ARLnow.com September 18, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a $100,000 grant for the Legal Aid Justice Center to provide legal representation to immigrants who live in Arlington.

“Arlington is leading the way by being the first jurisdiction in Virginia to create a specific funding source for legal representation for its immigrant residents facing deportation proceedings,” said the center’s Rebecca Wolozin, in a statement following the vote.

Over the past few years, Arlington County has repeatedly branded itself as a welcoming community for immigrants of all legal statuses, though it has also cautioned that it is not a “sanctuary” jurisdiction that can shield undocumented immigrants from federal authorities. By one recent estimate, there are around 17,000 undocumented immigrants in Arlington.

More on the Board’s action, from a county press release, below.

The Arlington County Board today approved one-time funding of $100,000 to the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) to provide immigration legal aid services for County residents. The County Manager will execute a grant agreement with LAJC.

“Ten years ago this month, the County Board approved a resolution supporting Arlington’s newcomers and pledging that Arlington is and would always be a community where every individual is treated with dignity and respect,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “In these uncertain times, it is important that the County take tangible steps to address the urgent legal needs of our immigrant residents. We will continue to stand with them, and to be a welcoming and inclusive community.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve the funding for emergency immigration legal aid services. Read the staff report; scroll down to Item No. 43.

“Arlington is leading the way by being the first jurisdiction in Virginia to create a specific funding source for legal representation for its immigrant residents facing deportation proceedings,” said Rebecca Wolozin, the Legal Aid Justice Center attorney who will provide services to Arlington’s immigrant families under this grant.

“In the United States, the right to a public defender is one of our most sacred of constitutional rights. But for immigrants facing deportation to a country where their lives are in danger, the federal government provides no public defender,” Wolozin said. “There are currently over 450 Arlington residents facing deportation proceedings without any lawyer, and 41 Arlington residents were placed in deportation proceedings in the last 90 days alone. It is wonderful that Arlington is stepping up to fill in the justice gap, and it is more important than ever now that our Dreamers suddenly find themselves at risk of deportation to a country they barely remember.”

The Board first approved funding for this grant as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget and directed the County Manager to develop a process for award.  Six non-profit providers already providing Arlington residents with legal services related to immigration enforcement responded to the County’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) with proposals.

The new grant will support and expand these activities, helping to meet unmet needs for the full range of emergency immigration legal services. The funding is meant to both provide services to more residents and provide more targeted legal aid services to help individuals and families evaluate and pursue their options for obtaining legal status and to have a plan in place should an immigration enforcement action occur.

by Chris Teale September 14, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office should rethink its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a leader at a criminal justice nonprofit.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director at the Falls Church-based Legal Aid Justice Center — which provides legal representation for low-income Virginians — said with President Donald Trump’s harder line on illegal immigration, Arlington and other jurisdictions should look again at how they work with ICE.

Under former President Barack Obama, he said, ICE was focused primarily on deporting illegal immigrants who are gang members and criminals. But now, according to Sandoval-Moshenberg, their orders appears to be broader as they seek to deport non-criminals as well.

Fellow panelist, Deputy Sheriff David Kidwell, said that Arlington is legally required to provide information on people under arrest electronically to Virginia State Police. VSP then shares that data with the FBI and ICE, among other law enforcement agencies.

If a person in jail is wanted by ICE for deportation and the Sheriff’s Office receives a request to hold onto them, it notifies ICE 48 hours before the person is released to come and collect them. But Sandoval-Moshenberg said that should change.

“I think there are a lot of assumptions and agreements under the old administration that need to be revisited given the new administration’s policies,” he said.

The pair were on a panel Wednesday night to discuss the impact of the changes in immigration law and enforcement as part of the Arlington Committee of 100’s monthly program at Marymount University.

Kidwell echoed County Manager Mark Schwartz’s statement earlier this year that Arlington cannot protect anyone from federal immigration enforcement. Instead, he said, Sheriff Beth Arthur has made the decision to “uphold the law.”

“She has decided once that request has been made [by ICE], to honor that request,” Kidwell said.

A third panelist, Laura Newton, director of Student Services at Arlington Public Schools, said APS will not require families or students to reveal their immigration status when they register. She added that families should not be afraid of sending their children to school.

“We need to make sure people know we are an open and welcoming county, and we will not stop anyone registering for school because of their legal status,” Newton said. She added that policy has not changed over the past several years, and APS has not received any complaints about it.

Still uncertain is the future of the approximately 800,000 people that will be affected when President Trump’s rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program starts to take effect in March. Trump is reported to be working on a deal with congressional Democrats to preserve DACA protections via legislation.

The decision, which affects people brought into the country illegally as children who were granted work permits and protection from deportation, was criticized by local members of Congress as well as the County Board.

Sandoval-Moshenberg estimated there are around 17,000 undocumented immigrants in Arlington. He said the dearth of affordable housing has meant the immigrant population has been slowly squeezed out. In 2000, 30 percent of Arlington residents were foreign-born, but in 2010, that figure went down to 20 percent.

“As the laws and policies have become more and more welcoming to immigrants and more and more friendly to immigrants, less and less are living here as fewer and fewer can afford to live here,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. He said that ending DACA could mean more people go back into the shadows.

Both Kidwell and Newton said their agencies will not change their stances on illegal immigrants. Kidwell said sheriff’s deputies and police officers will not ask anyone under arrest about their immigration status, while Newton emphasized that APS mission to educate anyone and everyone who lives in Arlington.

“It’s not our place to judge the reasons why you are here,” she said. “Our job is to educate you.”

The Committee of 100 will discuss the impact of immigration policy and enforcement on private organizations and civic groups at its November meeting in the second of its two-part series on the issue. In October the group will hold a forum with local candidates for public office.

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