Arlington, VA

Two Virginia organizations are looking to help as Arlington braces for immigration raids in the wake of President Trump’s deportation threats.

The Falls Church-based Legal Aid Justice Center is collaborating with the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations to train people on what rights the county’s immigrant community has and how they can help. The legal aid organization will be hosting the free event at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd) from 3-5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday).

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the legal director of the Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, said the event is aimed at teachers, service providers and “basically anyone who serves the immigrant community who is wondering what to tell people right now.”

Attendance is free but people are asked to RSVP to on Facebook.

The Justice Center will review what to do if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stops someone or knocks on their door, as shared here by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey during a recent Board meeting criticized Trump for issuing “a vague threat” on Twitter.

“If this latest escalation proves to be real, rest assured that Arlington does not participate in federal immigration enforcement and will not be assisting in any mass round-up or deportation of families or the separation of yet more children,” Dorsey said. He urged anyone who feared they would be targeted for deportation to visit the county’s website with resources for immigrants and to contact the Legal Aid Justice Center if they had legal questions.

Last week, Trump announced that ICE would deport “millions” starting Saturday. Despite the president calling off the threatened raids, ICE agents raided several homes and businesses in D.C. over the weekend and detained at least two parents, according to the Washington City Paper.

After the initial announcement “the level of fear in the immigrant community spiked to early 2017 levels, which is to say, extraordinarily high,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said.

After Trump took office in 2017, immigrant families in Arlington began withdrawing children from food stamps, stopped filing domestic violence protection orders in court and kept kids home from school out of a fear of deportation, according to Sandoval-Moshenberg. When the Legal Aid Justice Center organized the “Know Your Rights” events two years ago, attendance was up — between 100 and 200 people.

Sandoval-Moshenberg noted it’s too early to tell if families are reacting similarly now but, “our phone is ringing off the hook, that’s for sure.”

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Morning Notes

Last Week of School — The 2018-2019 school year is concluding this week for Arlington Public Schools. Today is the last day of school for high schools, while Friday is the last day of school for middle and elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Park Service Advances Boathouse Plan — “Plans to establish a community boathouse on the Potomac River in Arlington just passed a major milestone. The National Park Service completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which sets up the project to move forward.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

State of the County Address — “Christian Dorsey began his State of the County address by thanking the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington business community for their partnership ‘on specific issues from the transient occupancy tax, to dedicated funding for the Metro, to helping us put our best foot forward in the competition for  Amazon’s HQ2.'” [Press Release]

Arlington Public Safety Awards — “Following the State of the County address, awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel…  Stories of their heroic actions include two firefighters rescuing a person trapped inside a vehicle that was fully submerged in water, a detective dismantling a large, local cocaine trafficking organization with limited investigative leads, and a police officer saving two unresponsive passengers in an overturned, burning vehicle on the roadway.” [Press Release]

Fraud Alert from Arlington Police — “The Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are warning the public about a telephone scam that uses the threat of arrest to extort money from potential victims.” [Arlington County]

Metro Studying Second Rosslyn Metro Station — “After decades of discussion, Metro kicked off a study this week of a new, second station at Rosslyn and other changes that could overhaul the way trains on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines run throughout the system.” [WTOP]

ACPD: No Plans for ‘Mass Deportation’ — “The Arlington County Police Department called the plan ‘political’ and said they have no intention on working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fulfill [President] Trump’s mass deportation plan. The Fairfax County Police Department said it doesn’t participate with ICE on civil enforcement either.” [Fox 5]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Crystal City BID Proposes Expansion — “The Crystal City Business Improvement District has submitted its proposal to Arlington County to officially expand its borders into Pentagon City and the county’s portion [of] Potomac Yard as Amazon.com Inc. prepares to establish its second headquarters in the area collectively branded as National Landing.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Planning More Housing Initiatives — “Even by its own estimation, the Arlington County government’s success rate in stemming the exodus of affordable housing in Arlington has been hit-or-miss, and the local government at times has been viewed as unimaginative and overly bureaucratic by those who want to see more aggressive efforts at building and retaining housing accessible to lower- and middle-income residents.” [InsideNova]

Twilight Tattoo Begins Tonight at Ft. Myer — “Our 2019 Twilight Tattoo season is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, and run through Wednesday, July 31, with exception to July 3 and July 10, 2019… Twilight Tattoo is an hour-long, live-action military pageant featuring Soldiers from The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band ‘Pershing’s Own.'” [Military District of Washington]

Stressed Out Judges at Crystal City Immigration Court — “One of the most backlogged immigration courts in America is in Arlington… 7 on your side witnessed and heard of additional tense exchanges in court from multiple judges stressed with the ever-increasing caseload.” [WJLA]

Nearby: ‘Woodchuck’ Scam in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police are investigating a “woodchuck” scam that has cost a victim thousands of dollars. Police caution City residents to be aware of predatory services, especially for tree removal, landscaping, roof and chimney work, and other home services.” [City of Falls Church]

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Arlington officials are proposing a $12,000, mid-year funding bump for a program aiding the county’s undocumented residents.

Last week, County Manager Mark Schwartz published his recommendation to the County Board that they give an extra $12,250 from the county’s current budget and transfer the funds to the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). The Board is set to the weigh the issue this Saturday at its monthly meeting.

The funds are earmarked for the undocumented residents the Justice Center is providing with immigration assistance, such as visa consultations or asylum petitions as part of a program called “200 bridges.” Twenty-eight out of the 50 participating families have undocumented members, Schwartz wrote in the proposal.

If approved, the $12,250 would be a funding raise for the Justice Center — the county already granted $40,000 this year to fund legal rights workshops and counsel for individuals and families. Last fiscal year, the county allocated $100,000 to the Justice Center.

Since the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration enforcement, Arlington officials have acknowledged they want to remain “inclusive” to undocumented residents, but that they cannot provide “sanctuary” from federal agencies like ICE. Residents responded by raising thousands of dollars of their own money to cover the cost of local immigrants’ citizenship applications.

The county has taken steps to make some services (like public schools, health clinics and employment aid) available by not requiring users to show proof of residency.

Last week’s proposal suggested moving money out of Department of Human Services’ general fund for fiscal year 2019 and giving it to the legal aid provider to “bolster its provision of legal consultation and representation for undocumented Arlingtonians and mixed-residency status Arlington families.” (The current fiscal year ends in June, meaning the funds would have to be spent before then.)

About 23 percent of all 234,965 Arlington residents were born outside the United States, according to the latest Census data.

There are no data for the total number of residents who are undocumented, but in 2014 the American Immigration Council estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants lived in Virginia, making up approximately 28 of the total immigration population.

A 2016 research study by the Pew Research Center estimated 25,000 people live without immigration documentation in the total Greater Washington Area.

Schwarz’s proposal would allocate the $12,250 to the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Arlington office, not its other offices in Charlottesville, Petersburg and Richmond.

Image via Youtube.

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Police are investigating a suspicious package at a Crystal City office building.

Initial reports suggest that the package was inside an office on S. Bell Street belonging to the Dept. of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompting an evacuation of that office. A federal immigration court is on a lower floor of the building.

The scene has since been cleared and Arlington County police officers that were standing by outside have left, according to scanner traffic.

A photo posted on social media (below) Tuesday afternoon shows Dept. of Homeland Security police on scene and a number of office workers standing outside.

ICE has attracted considerable controversy recently for its enforcement of the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies, with even those tangentially connected to the agency facing political scrutiny.

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Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be big news that some kids and their parents plan to sell some lemonade around Arlington on a late-July day — but the lemonade stands popping up around the county this weekend come with a bit more of a message than most.

Activists with the group “Lawyer Moms of America” are setting up several stands in Arlington and other locations around Northern Virginia tomorrow (Saturday), as part of a national demonstration dubbed “Kids Take a Stand.” Parents and kids alike plan to use the event to raise money to hasten the reunification of families separated at the Mexican border.

While the Trump administration has managed to reunite roughly 1,400 children, from ages 5 to 17, with their families ahead of a court-imposed deadline, hundreds of other kids remain in government custody without any connection to their parents.

Though public outrage over the Trump administration’s since-reversed family separation policy has died down, Lawyer Moms of America is hoping to use Saturday’s demonstration to re-focus attention on the issue by putting their own kids in the spotlight.

“The women who founded Lawyer Moms of America heard first-hand accounts from lawyers who knew what was happening with these families at the border,” Natalie Roisman, an Arlington resident and member of the group’s national organizing team, wrote in a statement. “The immediate response was, ‘We have to do something.’ The next step was to think about how we – as lawyer moms – could uniquely contribute and do something effective. We have focused on education, advocacy and fundraising, and now we wanted to do something that would allow our kids to be directly involved.”

Roisman says the group will set up one stand at the intersection of N. Harrison Street and 8th Road N. in the Bluemont neighborhood, with another planned for Arlington Forest. She adds that stands will also be set up in the Waynewood area of Alexandria, at the Falls Church Farmers Market and in Reston, and more could pop up by the time Saturday arrives.

All proceeds of the lemonade sales will go to Project Corazon, an effort organized by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation to provide immigrants at the border with legal services.

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Update, July 25 at 4:25 p.m. 

County attorney Steve MacIsaac clarified that the county is intervening on behalf of the Census Bureau in a different case than the one originally described in this article. We regret the error.

Arlington County is weighing filing a lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, and intervening in a separate case as well to protect the Census Bureau’s practice of counting undocumented immigrants in population surveys.

The County Board voted unanimously last Wednesday (July 18) to move ahead with the legal action, after consulting with county lawyers behind closed doors.

The county is retaining the services of some outside lawyers to explore the possibility of joining dozens of other localities in suing drug manufacturers over fallout from the opioid crisis. Arlington recorded a 245 percent spike in patients seeking treatment for addiction to drugs like heroin and fentanyl from 2015 to 2017, and any lawsuit would seek to secure damages against pharmaceutical companies involved in flooding the market with prescription drugs that can often lead to addiction.

However, the Board would need to approve the specifics of any opioid lawsuit before the county moves forward with legal action.

The county also plans to lend its support to the Commerce Department in an ongoing federal case, after the state of Alabama mounted a legal challenge to the “resident rule.” The state is looking to ban the Census Bureau from counting undocumented residents in any count of an area’s population, as census data is used to determine boundaries of congressional districts and hand out federal money.

Arlington is joining with a variety of other localities to oppose that move, considering that the county has a large undocumented population. Census data show that Arlington had roughly 29,400 non-citizens living in the county through 2016. That was equivalent to roughly 13 percent of the county’s total population, one of the highest margins in the country.

 

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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.

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

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Morning Notes

FBI Renews Search for Hotel Rapist — A cold case is getting hotter as the FBI steps up the search for a man who raped hotel employees in the D.C. area, including in Arlington, between 1998 and 2006. Authorities still don’t know who the suspect is, but in a first for the region, the man’s DNA profile has been indicted for the crime. [FBI, NBC Washington, WTOP]

‘Unaccompanied Minors’ Housed at Local Facility? — “The feds may use a local juvenile detention center to house some of the nearly 2,000 children they’ve separated from their parents at the Mexican border. Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said she’s expressed ‘strong concerns’ with the board that runs the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has a contract to hold as many as 30 unaccompanied minors. The detention center is jointly run by Alexandria and Arlington.” [WUSA 9]

ACPD Helps Kid’s Dream Come True — “After over 900 days in foster care, Cameron’s wish came true when he found his forever family. During last week’s @Capitals visit, we were able to help him with his 2nd wish-touching the #StanleyCup! Today he stopped by to thank Officer Rihl for helping make his dream a reality!” [Twitter]

Local Tech Firm Signs Rosslyn Lease — As expected after being selected for a $60,000 Gazelle grant from Arlington County earlier this year, local tech firm Higher logic has signed a lease and is moving employees into a new 31,000 square foot headquarters space at Waterview Tower (1919 N. Lynn Street) in Rosslyn. The company, which makes community engagement software, acquired four companies last year. The new office offers “floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Potomac River, an open, collaborative environment, and much needed room to expand.” [Washington Business Journal]

Firefighters Help Cool Kids Down — Earlier this week, with sweltering temperatures putting a damper on outdoor activities, an Arlington County fire engine helped Patrick Henry Elementary students cool down during their field day. [Twitter]

ACFD Trains for Water Rescues — The Arlington County Fire Department has a water rescue team, and before yesterday’s rains the team was training in the rapids at Great Falls. [Twitter]

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