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.
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.
BU-GATA, a nonprofit that advocates for tenants rights and Latino issues, issued a statement during ACPD’s community outreach meeting last night asking the ACPD to step up its hiring practices so its department reflects the demographics of the community it serves.
“[The] lack of Latino, Spanish-speaking police officers is a major problem,” the group’s statement says. “In Arlington where 15.3 percent of the population is Latino, only 6-8 percent of the police force is Latino.”
The group charged that the lack of a “Latino, go-to liaison within the police department” and the lack of professional interpreters at community meetings have helped foster a “lack of trust between police officers and community members.”
“There continues to be great concern in the Latino community about rising numbers of Latinos being stopped and arrested by Arlington County police,” BU-GATA states. The ACPD only compiles demographic statistics based on “white” or “black” arrests, with Latinos largely grouped into the white demographic, an issue BU-GATA says should be rectified for a broader analysis of why Latinos are arrested at a higher rate than other demographics.
BU-GATA analyzed arrest data from 2011, it said, and found that Latinos made up for 23 percent of all those arrested in Arlington, based on “Spanish last names.” Many of the arrests were for one of three crimes: drunk driving, driving without a license and drinking in public.
Arlington County Police Chief Doug Scott responded to the call for hiring more Latino officers with an acknowledgment that the ACPD can do a better job.
“Our numbers of Latino officers may not be exactly where we want to be, but more and more we’re recruiting officers who are bilingual, so we’re trying to address some of those issues,” Scott said. “We do our best to have a police department that reflects the community that we serve.”
The ACPD offers incentives for bilingual officers, but BU-GATA said it does not do enough outreach to find bilingual candidates. The police department also has a standard of two years of college for its officers, which it recently has decided to waive for some with military or prior law enforcement experience.
BU-GATA said Arlington could create a “basic patrol” position, which other jurisdictions have, in an effort to hire more Latino officers who don’t qualify for the education requirements. After being hired, the “basic patrol” officers could then be reimbursed for tuition costs, the group proposed.
Scott said that although the numbers don’t fully match up demographically, he’s pleased with the department’s recruitment and diversity efforts. He said federal and local law enforcement agencies in the D.C. area are all competing to recruit Latino officers.
“Our numbers are pretty good in terms of the demographics of Arlington and the demographics of our police department,” he said. “We do quite a bit in terms of targeted recruiting for more African American officers, Latino officers, Asian Pacific officers. In fact the county manager gave an award to our recruitment staff for meeting our goals.”
APS Mulling Ways to Handle Student Boom — With the number of students in Arlington Public Schools expected to surge from 23,500 to nearly 30,000, school officials say they’re going to have to make “some tough choices.” Among the ways the school system might accommodate the extra students: “increasing class sizes, extending the school day, year-round schooling, installation of many more relocatable classrooms, and increasing the number of ‘virtual’ classes.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Latino Students Explore Careers — Some 200 Latino students from around Arlington attended a leadership conference at George Mason University on Friday. The conference, now in its 21st year, features Latino professionals talking about how they pursued their education and careers. [Washington Post]
Wardian Wins Marathon, Competes in Another — Prolific local marathon runner Michael Wardian won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon the Sunday before last. That same day, the 39-year-old flew to Las Vegas and competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon, where he placed 10th. [Runners World]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Mario’s and Carvel to Remain Open Despite Sale — Mario’s Pizza House and Carvel Ice Cream shop (3322 Wilson Blvd) were sold at auction last month for $2.86 million, achieving one of the highest per square foot sales in Arlington. The tenants will continue to operate at the location because the sale was for the real estate only, not the businesses. [Globe Newswire]
Tejada and Violand-Sanchez Make History in Virginia — As of January 1, Arlington made history by becoming the first Virginia jurisdiction to have its two local elected bodies headed by Latinos. Walter Tejada was selected to chair the County Board for 2013, joining Emma Violand-Sanchez who is halfway through her term as School Board chair. Tejada is a native of El Salvador and Violand-Sanchez is a native of Bolivia. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Group to Discuss Backyard Chickens — Arlington’s Committee of 100 will take up the issue of backyard chicken raising at its meeting tonight. Among the speakers are an official from Albemarle County, where urban chicken keeping is allowed; the founder of the Arlington Egg Project, which is pushing the county to change its restrictive poultry ordinance; and an Arlington resident who lives next door to a neighbor who raises chickens. [Committee of 100]
‘Office of Latino Affairs’ On the Back Burner — Corrected at 4:30 p.m. — A proposal to create an Office of Latino Affairs in Arlington is still on the back burner, the Sun Gazette reports. An earlier version of this item erroneously stated that County Board member Walter Tejada supports the creation of the office, and neglected to link to the Sun Gazette article. Tejada tells ARLnow.com that he supports improving services for Latino residents, but doesn’t think the creation of a separate county department is necessarily the best way to go about it. “I don’t think it’s the thing to do,” he said. [Sun Gazette]
Candidates Weigh in On Issues on GGW — Three (out of five) candidates for County Board weighed in on issues from the Columbia Pike streetcar to the Crystal City sector plan via the website Greater Greater Washington. Melissa Bondi, Libby Garvey and Kim Klingler responded to a candidate questionnaire issued by the site. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Latin-American Festival Planned — Arlington County is hosting a Latin-American festival on Sunday in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. “Savor the best of Latino culture at this annual festival with fellow Arlingtonians of all backgrounds in this diverse community,” the county said of the event, which is being held outdoors from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). [Arlington County]
Lawmakers to Tour Housing Site — Four state legislators and three county board members are scheduled to tour permanent supportive housing facilities at the Gates of Ballston apatment complex (4108 N. 4th Street) today. “The tour will demonstrate how the increase in Permanent Support Housing is necessary to meet the Governor’s plan to reduce homelessness by 15% by 2013,” according to the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, a tour organizer.
Einstein Bagels Coming to Crystal City — An Einstein Bagel outlet is coming to the lobby of the Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway). The bagel eatery is replacing a former Starbucks location.
Hat tip to Googla
On Saturday, the Smithsonian Latino Center and Arlington County’s Tell Arlington’s Story initiative are sponsoring a “family afternoon” at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.).
The afternoon will feature “hands-on activities inspired by Central American ceramis, Mayan dance presentations, live music, storytelling and talks by archeologist Favio Amador about Central America’s indigenous civilization.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m.
On Sunday, a Buckingham community street festival will be held from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. on N. Pershing Drive between Glebe Road and Thomas Street.
The festival will feature music, food, games, raffles, kids activities. Scheduled performers include Amla Boliviana and Luz De Luna.
The event is being organized by the community group BU-GATA, along with various county agencies including the Arlington County Police Department.
Beloved Bishop O’Connell Football Coach Dies — Steve Trimble, Bishop O’Connell High School’s varsity football coach since 2002, died suddenly at his office yesterday morning. Trimble played high school football in Cumberland, Md., before playing for the University of Maryland on a scholarship. He played free safety for the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears during the early-to-mid 80s, before playing in arena leagues and then joining the coaching staffs of several NFL teams. Trimble, 53, was the father of four sons, all of whom played football at O’Connell. [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Immigrant Advocate Wants Office for Latinos — Lois Athey, the head of tenants-rights group BU-GATA, told the County Board over the weekend that she would like the county to establish an Office of Latino Affairs for Arlington’s 31,000 Latino residents. Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to look into options for further outreach to the Latino community. [Sun Gazette]
More iPads Coming for Arlington Students? — Camilla Gagliolo, the instructional technology coordinator for Arlington Public Schools, is a big believer in using iPads in the classroom. The device “is bringing educational technology to new levels of student engagement,” she told a conference. iPads are currently in use at several Arlington elementary schools. [THE Journal]