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This week, a Marymount University graduate working in tech is packing up and moving to Dublin, Ireland.

He didn’t expect — or want — to leave his home on the border of Arlington and Falls Church this way.

Hansel D’Souza, 25, is an Indian national who was born and raised in Kuwait who now works for a tech company. He has been in Virginia since 2014, when he arrived on an F1 student visa to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at Marymount. There, he dove into theater, student affairs and campus ministry.

“I was everywhere at the same time, wearing lots of hats,” he said. “People asked me, ‘Is there any job you don’t do?”

He programmed backstage lighting and sounds for the campus theater club, the McLean Community Players and the Little Theatre of Alexandria. With the campus ministry group, he went to Louisa, Kentucky for a service project and returned as a camp counselor for a few summers, watching campers graduate high school and go to college.

His extracurricular resume may be impressive — but none of his positions or volunteer work mattered when it came to seeking an H1B visa to continue working in the U.S. in his specialized field, which selects 65,000 people a year through a lottery. Up to 20,000 additional people can get this visa if they’ve earned a master’s degree or higher.

“This is not a merit-based system,” said James Montana, an attorney at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm in Arlington. “The question is, do you have a degree that is related to the proposed work in a specialty field? An individual can do nothing to increase his chances — other than get a master’s, which is an awfully expensive way to increase them.”

D’Souza said his frustration with the H1B process, which wrote about in a Medium post, is that it whittled him down to a number in a lottery.

“Seven years of hard work, putting myself out there, making this place my home, building relationships, just came down to a lottery process,” he said. “I know I’m not the only one. I know a handful of other people going through it — and there are thousands of others across the country in similar situations every year.”

Indians in the U.S. face particular hurdles. In recent years, members of the diaspora living in the United States have protested a 150-year backlog in green cards, caused by a policy capping the number of Indians who can come to the U.S., and a coronavirus-induced excess of green cards that could go to waste despite this backlog.

Many Indian immigrants advocate for the cap to be lifted and for the immigration process to consider their technical skills instead.

As for D’Souza, he says he considered getting a master’s degree to increase his chances of staying. But after four years of tuition, and room and board, a master’s represented a financial lift he said he couldn’t justify, especially since he saw people advance in his field without one.

“Unfortunately, the world has gotten to a point where people are doing more degrees to check boxes on resume, and I didn’t want to do that,” he said.

It is too late for D’Souza, who departs tomorrow night (Wednesday), but he said he wants to elevate the voices of “international students and working professionals just like me.” He wants the Americans he knows to understand how complex immigrating to the U.S. is, as well.

“Immigration needs to change,” he said. “I’m hoping more people will realize it’s not all rose-colored glasses.”

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This afternoon near the Rosslyn Metro station, Bob Marley was playing and a flag featuring a joint and the words “Come and Take It” was flying.

The event was the legalization of marijuana in Virginia and a giveaway that attracted a line of some 100 people.

Those in line were waiting to receive six marijuana plant seeds — tokens to commemorate the first day of legalized cannabis possession on this side of the Potomac River. The seeds are from Virginia Marijuana Justice, an advocacy group celebrating legalization today with “The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share.”

Virginians 21 and older can now possess, consume and grow small amounts of the plant, but unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it, the Virginia Mercury reports. Lawmakers aim to begin recreational retail sales in 2024, giving the Commonwealth three years to establish a Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the market.

Outside the Rosslyn Metro station was one of four locations where volunteers with VAMJ gave out seeds. The Arlington seed share lasted from 12-2 p.m. and among the four sites, more than 20,000 seeds were distributed, said organizer Adam Eidinger.

“We are very happy on this historic day,” Eidinger said. “All four locations in Virginia had long lines and are giving away all the seeds we raised. Authorities were only concerned with large numbers of people, not the cannabis.”

The organization’s celebration started last night on the Key Bridge.

Chinara and Maurice, who only gave their first name, were among the crowd standing in line this afternoon.

Maurice said he was there “to partake in this transition that’s occurring,” saying he is glad “there is more acceptance for things that are natural.”

Despite the crowd’s size, Chinara said the line moved quickly. The R&B and Neo Soul singer-songwriter said she appreciates marijuana because “it makes me feel like I’m able to interact more smoothly with people.”

VAMJ gave out the seeds to people 21 and older with a valid ID. Organizers reminded participants to be patient, let senior citizens go first in line and make friends. They also reminded people that the law only permits four plants in a home.

The giveaway finished about 45 minutes before the thunderstorms rolled in.

Although the mood this afternoon was joyous, advocates say work remains to be done.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of a parallel Virginia-based group, Marijuana Justice, said the new law has a lot of gaps and she is skeptical that Black and Brown people will actually be treated equally for possessing the plant.

Her group is advocating for next year’s legislature to “repeal, repair and [make] reparations.” It has formed a Legalize It Right coalition to discuss the new Virginian law and how to tackle these goals.

Specifically, the group wants the legislature to remove an open container law that punishes people for possessing the plant in anything but the original manufacturers’ container. The group wants to see public consumption legalized — right now Virginians can only partake at home — and zero tolerance policies on college and university campuses removed.

In addition, Marijuana Justice wants records for marijuana-related crimes expunged and reparations for people arrested and convicted for committing such crimes.

VAMJ also wrote in a blog post that the fight is not over.

“Just because you can grow your own cannabis, doesn’t mean that the war on drugs is won,” the post said. “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure not only local legalization, but legalization across the country, to benefit all interested parties. There are still friends and family members in jail for cannabis in Virginia. We need to demand their immediate release.”

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It’s July 1, the date in which new state legislation goes into effect in Virginia.

The new laws ban balloon launches, extend for one year the ability of restaurant to offer to-go alcoholic beverages, and require drivers to maintain at least three feet of distance when passing cyclists. But perhaps the most high-profile legislation is the legalization of marijuana in the Commonwealth.

More from the Virginia Mercury:

As of today, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and grow in Virginia. But unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it.

Lawmakers have set a 2024 target to begin retail sales to recreational users, a runway the legislation’s authors say is necessary to establish the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, which will regulate the new market.

But some legalization advocates are hoping the General Assembly will agree to speed up that time frame.

“Our priority in the 2022 legislative session is to expedite retail access for adult consumers, both through already operational medical dispensaries and by moving up the date VCCA can begin issuing new licenses,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML.

More than 80% of respondents to an ARLnow poll earlier this year said they support the legalization of marijuana. And more than half of respondents to a subsequent poll said they “definitely” or “maybe” will partake in legal weed.

But we’re wondering whether the enactment of the new law today changes anything for anybody. Will legalization actually result in you doing something you didn’t do before?

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

It’s July — Today is the first day in the month of July, named after Julius Caesar around the time of his assassination in 44 BC. Prior to that, the month was called Quintilis. In addition to today being the start of July, it’s also the start of the second half of the year. Expect the month to be especially hot and rainy. [Capital Weather Gang]

New Va. Bike Law Now In Effect — “A new state law requires motorists to change lanes when passing a bicyclist, if the lane of travel is not wide enough to accommodate 3 feet in distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle. Existing law had allowed, but did not require, a motorist to move into the other lane when passing a bicyclist in order to ensure at least 3 feet of distance.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD CPR Battle — “Recruit Class 80 was certified in CPR yesterday. Recruits went head to head in partner CPR races. The top recruit team took on the FTA Cadre in a final race. Watch to find out who won! Our manikins give live feedback on the quality of compressions and ventilations.” [Instagram]

ACPD’s LGBTQ+ Outreach — “The unit provides educational outreach to the LGBTQ community on issues of concern to that community, including the types of crime that some LGBTQ people become victims of. Among those issues, he said, are same-sex domestic violence and online dating scams in which criminals pose as a potential dating partner to gain access to a gay person’s home, where they rob and sometime assault the unsuspecting victim. Penn said he was unaware of any anti-LGBTQ hate crimes that have occurred in Arlington in recent years.” [Washington Blade]

CPRO Gets Amazon Donation — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Amazon. To kick off this partnership, CPRO has received a generous $25,000 donation from Amazon this month to support three of its upcoming events: the recent Columbia Pike Blues Weekend, the upcoming Columbia Pike Drive-In Movie Nights, and CPRO’s 35th Anniversary Celebration in October.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

Body Found in Metro Tunnel Last Year — “On April 2, 2020, a report said, a person jumped on top of a Yellow Line train at L’Enfant Plaza station. A track inspector found the person’s body three days later between the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, WMSC]

Runway Reconstruction for DCA — “Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $13,715,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to four airports… [the] Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $1,700,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” [Press Release]

Theme Announced for County Fair — “We are officially 50 days away from the Arlington County Fair! This year’s theme is… *drum roll please*… NIGHTS, LIGHTS, AND BITES! We are so excited for all the colorful nights, bright lights, and yummy bites at this year’s Fair, and we can’t wait to see you there!” [Twitter]

VHC Gets Grant for Remote OB Appointments — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a $38,000 grant from the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JBLF) for the pilot of the Hospital’s OB Connect program, which provides patients with the flexibility to receive prenatal care from home.” [Press Release]

Robbery at Pentagon City Mall — “At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 25, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the employee was assisting the suspect when he began to give her commands and directed her to open the display cases and place merchandise into his bag. The suspect then ordered the employee into the back of the store until he left the business.” [ACPD]

Restaurant T0-Go Drink Changes Extended — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year. In addition, restaurants who are delivering wine and beer can continue to do so for another year.” [Zebra]

Outdoor Balloon Launches Banned — “The revised law, sponsored by Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), takes effect on July 1, and will prohibit the intentional releasing, discarding, or causing to be released any balloon outdoors. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon. The bill provides that if a person under the age of 16 releases a balloon at the instruction of an adult, the adult shall be liable for the civil penalty.” [Sun Gazette]

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(Updated 2:45 p.m.) Two Arlington County police officers have been decertified due to a new state law that expands the kinds of offenses for which officers can be permanently banned from law enforcement work in Virginia.

The Arlington County Police Department found the two had lied during an internal affairs investigation. They were officially taken off the streets on May 12, according to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services’ master list of 94 officers who have been decertified since 1999.

No other Arlington officer appears on that list, but the list does not include all the decertifications documented on paper between 1994 — when the Virginia State Crime Commission recommended a decertification process — and 1999, per a DCJS staff member.

Lying is one of two offenses punishable with decertification under the new law, which went into effect on March 1, the Prince William Times reported. These reforms were backed by the Virginia Association of Police Chiefs, which particularly supported a truthfulness clause.

The new law allows DCJS to ban officers from law enforcement work in Virginia if they were found to have lied or used excessive force.

Seven officers have lost their ability to work in Virginia under the new criteria: Six were decertified for making untruthful statements or providing untruthful documentation and one for using excessive force.

The law also closed a loophole that allowed officers to avoid this fate if they resigned during a decertification proceeding. This allowed officers to find a new job with another law enforcement agency.

“The decertification process is independent of ACPD’s internal investigation and audits process,” said Ashley Savage, the spokeswoman for ACPD. “Accountability is the basis from which we operate and we are committed to holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards of professional law enforcement.”

ACPD notifies DCJS of “sustained allegations which compromise an officer’s credibility, integrity, honesty, and where officers are convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, failed a drug test, or did not maintain their training requirements,” she said.

Prior to the new legislation, officers could be decertified for being convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, failing a drug test or not maintaining training requirements. Since 1999, the most common reasons for decertification included sex crimes (22), fraud (11), assault (10), refused or failed drug tests (9), larceny (7), and destruction or falsification of records (5).

The number of police officers decertified annually in Virginia hovered between five and seven for a number of years, but picked up in 2018 and 2020, the records show. DJCS determined 15 and 19 officers were unfit for duty, respectively, during those years.

Before reaching out to DCJS, ACPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility performs internal audits on all allegations of misconduct and any concerns of use or misuse of equipment, personnel or training, Savage said.

“We constantly monitor and investigate all complaints made against members of the agency,” she said. “When employee actions are not consistent with Arlington County policies and procedures, appropriate corrective measures are taken to ensure that type of incident does not occur in the future; this includes disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Failure to report an incident and/or misconduct by any member of the department is not tolerated.”

File photo

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The top federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia is leaving office ahead of President-Elect Biden’s inauguration

After two-and-a-half years on the job, G. Zachary Terwilliger will step down this month as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Terwilliger, who has a close relationship with former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, told the Washington Post that the recent election of Joe Biden as president had consequences and that he preferred to leave his post voluntarily.

His last day is Friday, Jan. 15, after which he will join the Texas-based firm Vinson & Elkins LLP as a partner in its D.C. office. The Eastern District’s First Assistant Attorney, Rah Parekh, will take over in an acting capacity until the role is officially filled.

“It has been the honor of honors to be in the arena with so many dedicated individuals in the pursuit of justice, and I feel so fortunate to conclude my service as the United States Attorney in the district where it all began,” Terwilliger said in a prepared statement.

An Alexandria resident, Terwilliger led a staff of more than 250 personnel in the Eastern District, which prosecuted high-profile cases of national interest and oversaw investigations throughout Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads and Tidewater. His work included charging ISIS militants known as “The Beatles” with murder, overseeing a massive heroin and fentanyl bust that put 35 people behind bars, and putting 11 MS-13 gang members in connection with the murder of two juveniles in Fairfax County behind bars.

Regina Lombardo, the deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commended Terwilliger as a “driving force” behind the Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal firearms laws.

“U.S. Attorney Terwilliger’s partnership with ATF’s Washington Field Division has been nothing short of extraordinary, and the Eastern District of Virginia is a safer place because of him,” Lombardo said. “I sincerely wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”

Terwilliger’s career began as an intern for the Eastern District in 1999. A graduate of the William & Mary School of Law, he was appointed a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2008. He was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney two years later, and then spent the next eight-plus years prosecuting cases until he was named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the acting Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in May 2018. His appointment was later confirmed in the Senate, and was supported by Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

Terwilliger’s father was a former United States Deputy Attorney General and acting United States Attorney General. George J. Terwilliger III succeeded Barr as Deputy Attorney General after being nominated to the position in 1992.

Photo via U.S. Department of Justice

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Virginia’s hands-free law takes effect on January 1, and that means it will be illegal to drive holding any personal communications device in Arlington or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The law was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam during the summer. Police will now be able to pull over drivers if they are seen to be holding cell phones.

Previously, only texting or emailing while driving was against the law.

Last year, there were 23,000 crashes in Virginia attributed to distracted driving, resulting in 120 deaths, Northam said in a news conference earlier this month.

Drivers can talk hands-free, but if caught holding a phone they face fines of $125 for a first offense, and $250 for a second offense or if drivers are holding phones in a construction zone.

There are some exceptions:

  • Drivers of emergency vehicles can use handheld devices
  • Drivers can hold devices while stopped or parked
  • Drivers can hold devices when reporting emergencies
  • Virginia Department of Transportation vehicle drivers can use handheld devices while performing traffic incident management services

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Morning Notes

Arlington’s ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Talks — “For me, I like the hole-in-the wall bars. Just like, a dive bar where I can just like, grab a beer. Like I love drinking Guinness or some sort of Allagash White or something like that. If I were to go to a bar in Arlington to watch a game, I don’t know — maybe like, First Down in Ballston or like Spider Kelly’s.” [Washingtonian]

CaBi Comes to DCA — “The Capital Bikeshare station at National Airport is live! Traveling to the airport just got a whole lot easier.” [Twitter]

National Landing BID Expanding — “The National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) today announced two new executive appointments and three promotions within the organization.” [National Landing BID]

Fmr. Interim Superintendent Leaves APS — Arlington Public Schools staff wished goodbye to Cintia Johnson, the long-time school staffer who recently served as interim superintendent. [@APSVirginia/Twitter]

Chamber Continues Supporting Dillon Rule — “As part of its 2021 package of legislative priorities, the Chamber of Commerce is continuing its position that the ‘Dillon Rule’ needs to be maintained, and urged members of the General Assembly to do nothing that would lessen it. Leadership of the business organization comes and goes and other policy positions evolve over time, but the Chamber’s support for the Dillon Rule has remained steadfast over the decades.” [InsideNova]

Hospital CEO Staying On, For Now — “Virginia Hospital Center is experiencing some leadership changes — and holding off on others. VHC president and CEO Jim Cole, who’s held the position for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, has continued and will remain in the top slot for now after announcing a year ago his intention to retire in September 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

‘Section 230’ Explained With ARLnow — So what is Section 230, exactly? Per cybersecurity law professor Jeff Kosseff: “[An] example is that I go to my favorite local news site, @ARLnowDOTcom, and post a terrible, defamatory rumor about my neighbor… Neighbor can sue me, but a suit against ARLnow would fail because ARLnow was not responsible in whole or in part for creating or developing my defamatory post.” [@jkosseff/Twitter]

Nearby: Bethesda Encouraging ‘Streeteries’ — “A fund with $1.25 million from federal aid money might help. The county is considering using that money to give outdoor ‘streeteries’ — blocked-off streets filled with tables and chairs for patrons to eat outdoors — tools to prepare for operating during winter, such as heaters.” [Bethesda Magazine]

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Morning Notes

Holiday Closures Start Tomorrow — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Friday, July 3, 2020, for observation of Independence Day… Metered parking [will not be] enforced July 3-4.” [Arlington County]

Affordable Housing Provider Celebrates Scholarships — “Celebrating graduation may have looked a little different this year, but we could not be any prouder of the students from our College and Career Readiness (CCR) program who graduated from high school in 2020. All 31 of the amazing young people who participated in the program this year are off to college in the fall. In total, they were accepted into 135 schools and received an estimated $1.24 million in scholarships and aid.” [AHC Inc.]

Animal Welfare League Not Reopening Yet — “For the health and safety our staff, volunteers, and the public, we have decided to remain closed for the public, but we expect to introduce in-person adoption by appointment on a very limited basis in the coming days. We also hope to begin selling spay and neuter vouchers online very soon.” [Facebook]

New Pedestrian Law Now in Effect — “Drivers must now fully stop, not just yield, for pedestrians in all crosswalks in Virginia or they could be slapped with a $500 fine. The law that went into effect Wednesday, July 1 requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in any marked or unmarked crosswalk… Last year there were 166 crashes in Arlington involving pedestrians. Four people were killed.” [NBC 4]

Another I-395 Daredevil Caught on Camera — It keeps happening: this time, a commercial vehicle was caught on video backing up and crossing all lanes of northbound I-395 to reach the HOV bridge into D.C. [Twitter]

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Since launching in 2019, the Juris Master Degree Program (JM) at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School has assisted students in building professional and social connections.

The JM Degree is designed for professionals who interact with lawyers and legal issues regularly in the course of their careers. This type of program is in high demand and now offered by over half of all tier one law schools.

“We are proud to offer the Juris Master Degree Program at Scalia Law School,” said Dean Henry N. Butler. “This is an opportunity for professionals to learn the law, so they will be better equipped to provide leadership in their respective fields.”

Scalia Law’s two-year part-time program is offered at the Arlington campus, and enrollment for the August 2020 class is currently OPEN.

As listed on the JM Degree website, https://jurismaster.gmu.edu/, in addition to general legal research, writing and introductory law courses, JM students can select law school courses from six concentration areas:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Employment & Labor Relations
  • Financial & Commercial Services
  • Government Contracts & Regulations
  • Intellectual Property & Technology
  • National Security, Cybersecurity & Information Privacy

JM students can maintain employment schedules, while benefiting from the opportunities afforded by a tier-one law school.

There is a growing base of legal services and legal knowledge required by employers and the JM Degree is designed to educate students with the legal knowledge necessary for them to succeed in their chosen professions.

Applications are being accepted now. For more information about the JM Degree Program, please visit our website or contact Jessica L. Sartorius, Director of Juris Master (JM) Degree Program, at [email protected] or 703-993-8418.

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