Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform Overview

We believe in comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Our vision of reform includes immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens working shoulder to shoulder to achieve better wages, working conditions and labor protections. We want to ensure that everyone is playing by the same set of rules and make it harder for unscrupulous employers to cheat any worker, including immigrants. Virginia Organizing is proud to be the state coordinator for Alliance for Citizenship (A4C), a national campaign to win citizenship for 11 million Americans-in-waiting who are living in the United States today.  Virginia Organizing is working with dozens of groups across the Commonwealth to get our Members of Congress to support immigration reform.  To be part of this campaign, contact Joe Szakos at As a part of this national effort, Virginia Organizing has adopted the A4C core principles for reform: ·      Secure the broadest possible legalization with a path to citizenship ·      Preserve and work to advance family reunification ·      Protect rights and working conditions for all workers ·      Block enforcement measures that violate due process ·      Accord the responsibilities and rights required for full integration into American society In addition, we have a statewide Immigration Strategy Committee for grassroots people to be involved in the policy change process. 

Fast for families activists demand Cantor support immigration reform

Icon April 8, 2014 - 03:50 Published April 4, 2104 Last November, 4 immigration reform activists gathered at the Capitol to begin a 22-day fast. Eliseo Medina, Cristian Avila, Rudy Lopez, and DJ Yoonwere joined by hundreds of supporters of "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform", to appeal to Congress for an end to the harmful immigration practices that continue to shatter innocent families that came to the U.S. looking for a better life. Other supporters fasted for shorter periods of time and there were solidarity fasts in many cities. The November actions gave rise to the Fast for Families bus tour that began January 27th, with fasters and activists visiting 67 key congressional districts to lobby for immigration reform. On February 24th, two buses, one with a northern route, the other covering the south departed from L.A. to visit 70 cities, ending up in Washington D.C. on April 9th. Not only Latino, but also Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants lead the tour, bringing attention to less publicized groups of immigrants being affected by Congress's inaction on immigration reform. April 2, the two buses met and joined local faith and immigration reform leaders and activists in Richmond, VA, House Majority Eric Cantor's district. They erected tents and began a four-day fast to be accompanied by events, rallies, and community meetings to send the message that we cannot wait any longer for reform. In opening remarks at a rally April 3, Reverend Tony Suarez pointed out that immigrants built our country. "Immigration is not a new issue in this land. Our forefathers were dreamers who came to this country." After the rally, a small group of activists moved on to Virginia GOP headquarters to meet with staffers about comprehensive immigration reform. " We're asking him (Rep. Cantor) to sit down and talk to us about this broken immigration system and we hope that we can touch his heart to make him understand that he has a unique power to end the suffering of our community of immigrants" said organizer and faster Eliseo Medina. One staffer was moved by the fasters' commitment to change people's hearts and minds about immigration reform. "Conservatives aren't driven by hate. We're struggling with how to make the system more moral." Sign a petition telling Representative Cantor it's time for a vote on immigration reform here. For more information, visit, follow @fast4families on twitter, or like them on Facebook. Photo: Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform & Citizenship Facebook page.

Immigration Activists Escalate Deportation Fight: 'Not One More'

Icon April 8, 2014 - 03:47 Published April 4, 2014 WASHINGTON -- Immigration activists are gearing up for a major day of action on Saturday directed squarely at President Barack Obama, demanding he halt deportations that split immigrants from their families and communities. There will be about 80 events Saturday as part of the #Not1More campaign, the latest in a slew of upcoming and ongoing movements against deportations. The fact that they're not letting up -- if anything, immigrant rights groups are becoming more vocal -- shows that Obama's recent announcement that the Department of Homeland Security will review deportation policies isn't enough for many activists. They want action now, and they will stake out the White House, go without food and rally until they get it. "We want to keep our families together," said Tania Unzueta, who is organizing the #Not1More campaign with the advocacy group National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "We want to dismantle the deportation machine," she continued, on a call hosted by pro-reform group America's Voice. "We want to move the president to be the champion that he was elected to be and not the deporter-in-chief that he has become." Deportations have hit record highs under Obama, but many came from along the border, and there have been policies put in place to target more criminals and repeat immigration offenders. Still, activists argue there have been far too many removals -- likely about 2 million during Obama's presidency. Along with the Saturday events, pro-reform groups and activists are planning a spate of rallies, protests and meetings meant to urge deportation relief and comprehensive immigration reform. A group of activists, including Dreamers and family members of immigrants in detention, announced at a Thursday press conference that advocates will maintain a daily presence for an indefinite period outside the White House. In front of a banner reading "Mr. President, Stop Deportation," members of the coalition said that groups from New York, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and more would travel to Washington to take part. "The time is now to stop deportations," Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Action Coalition, said at the press conference. "Immigration reform has been stalled, and we need action now. Not in three months, not review. We need it now." There has been a rift over whether to continue to push House Republicans to pass immigration reform or whether to put pressure on Obama to halt some deportations. Some groups are attempting to do both, and some argue it's time to recognize Congress isn't going to act, and if they want something to change, the president is the one who can do it. Arturo Carmona, the co-founder of advocacy group Presente, said he expects politically-focused campaigns to continue, but that right now activists are increasingly concentrated on Obama, as his group has been for a while. Presente began its Obama Legacy Project last week to highlight the president's record on immigration, and is planning more actions in the coming weeks. "The movement is headed toward coalescing around focusing on the president," Carmona said in an interview. "I think that the movement generally recognizes that that's the only viable policy solution." But efforts targeting Congress are continuing as well. The group We Belong Together is holding a 48-hour fast on the National Mall next week, with 100 women expected to attend from around the country. They'll get support from nearly a dozen female members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to the organization. The Fast for Families coalition, which held a month-long vigil without food on the National Mall last fall and is now touring around the country, is spending four days in Virginia to put pressure on Republicans, particularly House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Within the House, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is also focusing on both the GOP and the president. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told reporters Friday that he expects some type of action from the president if Congress fails to act. "Republicans can either see a grateful nation and a grateful immigrant community lining up for immigration status the Republicans helped draft, or they can watch the president and the Democrats do what they have to do without them," Gutierrez said on the call hosted by America's Voice. "Either way, I think a substantial number of immigrants are going to be lining up sometime later this year to apply for some sort of deportation relief, and I will be there helping them."

"Fast for Families" Hunger Strike for Immigration Reform Comes to Richmond

Icon April 7, 2014 - 20:26 Published April 5, 2014 Click here to view video RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -Advocates for immigration reform have begun a four day hunger strike in Richmond. It’s part of the national “Fast for Families across America” campaign that is calling on lawmakers to vote on a comprehensive immigration reform. A tent has been set up in Monroe Park to serve as headquarters for its four-day stay. Cristian Avila, 23, is fasting for four days. "It was the only way that I could really look into my parents’ eyes and tell them that I did everything that I can,” said Avila. His family left Mexico and illegally entered Arizona when he was nine. He’s lived here for 14 years, but neither he nor his family have U.S. citizenship and could be deported at any time. He also went without food for 22 days last November to show his support for immigration reform. Faith, labor and civil rights leaders also fasted with him at the doorstep of the U.S. Capitol. Avila lost 26 pounds and doctors told him he had to stop because his body was eating its own tissue to survive. "Even though we grew hungrier and we grew weaker, our bodies... Our spirits were a lot stronger." Avila said during that time he, along with others in his group, received support from people all over the world. Avila said, "It's a lot bigger than just myself [me]. It's 11 million people, It's 11 million dreams and there's a lot, many, many children that want to see their families again.” Dozens of people have spent the last six weeks traveling across 30 states in buses for this year’s “Fast for Families across America” campaign. They hope the fast will touch the hearts of Republicans in Congress who have blocked a vote on immigration reform. Campaign leader Eliseo Medina said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Va. Have a moral responsibility to make sure a vote is held. Trip Director Heidi Pendergast said their message is to, “move forward on comprehensive immigration reform to have people actually take the steps to mend our broken immigration system that's tearing apart families. It's leaving people on the border to die over there. But really to see and end the broken immigration system to have families reunited." The tour will head to three more cities in Virginia before going to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. While there the group hopes to meet with John Boehner, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and present their case. They will also pass on the hunger strike to another group. Avila said he is prepared to fast again if it will help. "If I have to do it another 10 times i will do it again.” To learn more about the campaign visit the "Fast for Families" website. Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

Immigration Reform Advocates Begin Fast in Richmond

Icon April 7, 2014 - 20:19 Published April 3, 2014 By Larry O'Dell Advocates for immigration reform have begun a four-day hunger strike in Richmond. It's part of the national "Fast for Families Across America" campaign that has taken two busloads of advocates to 30 states over the last six weeks. The campaign set up a tent in a park near downtown Richmond on Wednesday to serve as headquarters for its four-day stay before heading to Washington, D.C., next week. Campaign leader Eliseo Medina said at a news conference that he hopes the fast will touch the hearts of Republicans in Congress who have blocked a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. He said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia have a moral responsibility to make sure a vote is held.

More Deportations Follow Minor Crimes, Records Show

Icon April 7, 2014 - 19:33 By Ginger Thompson and Sarah Cohen April 6, 2014 © 2014 The New York Times Company With the Obama administration deporting illegal immigrants at a record pace, the president has said the government is going after “criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.” But a New York Times analysis of internal government records shows that since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. Twenty percent — or about 394,000 — of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses, the records show. Deportations have become one of the most contentious domestic issues of the Obama presidency, and an examination of the administration’s record shows how the disconnect evolved between the president’s stated goal of blunting what he called the harsh edge of immigration enforcement and the reality that has played out. Mr. Obama came to office promising comprehensive immigration reform, but lacking sufficient support, the administration took steps it portrayed as narrowing the focus of enforcement efforts on serious criminals. Yet the records show that the enforcement net actually grew, picking up more and more immigrants with minor or no criminal records. Interviews with current and former administration officials, as well as immigrant advocates, portray a president trying to keep his supporters in line even as he sought to show political opponents that he would be tough on people who had broken the law by entering the country illegally. As immigrant groups grew increasingly frustrated, the president held a succession of tense private meetings at the White House where he warned advocates that their public protests were weakening his hand, making it harder for him to cut a deal. At the same, his opponents in Congress insisted his enforcement efforts had not gone far enough. Five years into his presidency, neither side is satisfied. “It would have been better for the administration to state its enforcement intentions clearly and stand by them, rather than being willing to lean whichever way seemed politically expedient at any given moment,” said David Martin, the deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security until December 2010. “They lost credibility on enforcement, despite all the deportations, while letting activists think they could always get another concession if they just blamed Obama. It was a pipe dream to think they could make everyone happy.” Various studies of court records and anecdotal reports over the past few years have raised questions about who is being deported by immigration officials. The Times analysis is based on government data covering more than 3.2 million deportations over 10 years, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and provides a more detailed portrait of the deportations carried out under Mr. Obama. The demographics of those being removed today are not all that different from those removed over the years. Most are Mexican men under the age of 35. But many of their circumstances have changed. The records show the largest increases were in deportations involving [undocumented] immigrants whose most serious offense was listed as a traffic violation, including driving under the influence. Those cases more than quadrupled from 43,000 during the last five years of President George W. For the complete article, please click here. A version of this article appears in print on April 7, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: More Deportations Follow Minor Crimes, Data Shows.

Jewish Immigration Advocates Push Eric Cantor To Support Broad Reforms

Icon February 21, 2014 - 16:23 Published Friday, February 21, 2014 Top GOP Jew Skips Hometown Event in Richmond By Nathan Guttmann. Eric Cantor, Top GOP Jew, Changes Tune on Immigration The organized Jewish community is known for its impressive bipartisan clout when advocating issues relating to Israel. But when it comes to domestic affairs, the community suffers from a lopsided lack of leverage on the Republican side. Some Jewish activists believe that they may have found a pathway to the GOP side of the aisle. Their tactic: play the Jewish card on the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In a communal event held in Cantor’s hometown of Richmond, Va., on February 16, a group of pro-immigration Jewish activists, including past donors to Cantor’s campaigns, tried to send the No. 2 Republican in the House a message that immigration reform, shelved by his own party, is a Jewish issue he ought to be taking on. “It was a strategic choice,” said Abby Levine, director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, which organized the event. “We strategically chose Richmond because of the importance of Eric Cantor.” Cantor could be a key person for immigration reform. House Speaker John Boehner made clear that the issue is off the table for this legislative year, and Cantor, who has avoided expressing his views on the details of the Senate bipartisan immigration bill, is viewed by some, including those of the Jewish community that largely supports reform, as the only senior Republican open to change on the issue. But past experience has shown that Cantor, despite his close ties with Jewish leadership, has not been receptive to the community’s domestic agenda. Gathered at the Richmond Jewish Community Center on a snowy Sunday afternoon, some 70 members of the city’s Jewish community listened to immigration stories that recalled to the audience the role immigration played in American Jewish history. The presentation stressed immigration reform as an issue in line with core Jewish values. Jay Ipson, wearing a cowboy hat decorated with a menorah symbol, spoke of his family immigration from Lithuania after the Holocaust and of the tragedy of closing immigration gates during the war; Janet Slipow Meyers, whose parents came from Russia in the early 20th century, told her story, and Roben Farzad, a successful Bloomberg writer who came with his family from Iran after the Islamic Revolution, represented the younger generation of Jewish immigrants to America. Joining them was Felipe Marroquin, a non-Jewish resident of Richmond. Marroquin burst into tears while sharing with the audience the story of his wife of 20 years, who was deported to Guatemala. While not discussing the issue directly at the event, organizers have highlighted in their publications another Richmond Jewish immigration story: that of the family of the city’s most politically powerful son, Cantor. His grandparents fled anti-Semitism in Russia to arrive in America and start a new life in Virginia’s capital. “I am the grandson of immigrants, and as such my life has been blessed with both the strong religious faith and hard-working, entrepreneurial ethic that so many immigrants bring to America,” Cantor wrote in the 2010 book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” which he co-wrote with fellow Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy. Organizers said Cantor was invited to attend the event but did not respond. As the discussion drew to a close, participants were offered a letter to sign. It was to be sent to Cantor, urging him to meet with his local Jewish constituents to discuss immigration. The immigration stories presented at the event “have inspired us to consider the Richmond Jewish community’s unique connection to the issue of immigration,” the letter said. The 36 participants joining the letter asked their congressman to “meet with a group of Richmond Jewish leaders to discuss how the issue affects our community and how we can support you to fix the broken immigration system.” The request comes after previous attempts by Jewish immigration activists to meet with Cantor were turned down. Gary Creditor, who is the rabbi of Richmond’s Temple Beth-El and is a member of the grassroots group Virginia Organizing, has been unsuccessful in his requests to meet personally with Cantor and discuss immigration reform. Creditor vowed to keep on trying to convey the message to the House majority leader, explaining that “sometimes it’s like water on a rock, and you have to continue working and working at it all the time.” Cantor’s office did not respond to requests from the Forward to comment on the event, or on Cantor’s refusal to meet with members of the Jewish community in his constituency to discuss immigration reform. The drive for reforming America’s broken immigration system and for dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants gathered momentum late last year, as prominent senators from both parties agreed on a set of reform principles. Republicans controlling the House of Representatives also seemed to express willingness to take on the issue. But bitter disputes over including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and pushback from more conservative GOP circles, led the House leadership to announce that it would not advance immigration legislation this year. Cantor recently suggested that instead of taking on a major overhaul of the immigration system, both parties should try and make progress on the smaller issues they can agree on, such as legalizing the status of children of undocumented immigrants who study in college or serve in the military. Richmond’s Jewish community, with 12,000 members and six synagogues, is considered small in size. But some of the activists who showed up to the immigration event carry weight on the local political scene. Ipson has contributed to Cantor’s congressional campaigns, as has Mark Sisisky, who moderated the meeting. Both also gave to Democratic candidates in the state. Sisisky, whose father was a Democratic member of Congress from the district now represented by Cantor, said he believed that “the Jewish story of immigration is a story Eric should take into account when he leads the party.” But, keeping in the spirit of Southern hospitality, Sisisky also made clear that “we didn’t come there to slam Eric.” Cantor’s relationship with the organized Jewish community has been a mixed bag. A staunch supporter of Israel, Cantor is counted as a safe vote on legislation relating to Israel and is seen as an ally of the pro-Israel lobby. Yet on the domestic front, where the Jewish community trends liberal, and where Cantor holds conservative views — especially on fiscal matters — cooperation has been rare. Levine expressed her hope that the immigration issue will have more resonance with the Republican leader. “I don’t know what drives his decision-making process, but he is the No. 2 Republican in the House and clearly he has a Jewish identity,” she said. “Everyone is trying every possible way to influence, and we are choosing this way.” Contact Nathan Guttman at or on Twitter, @nathanguttman

Coming to America: Stories of Immigration from Richmond's Jewish Community

Icon February 20, 2014 - 03:22 Published on Feb 17, 2014 Clips from a panel discussion at the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, Virginia on Sunday, February 16, 2014. We celebrated Richmond's Jewish community's immigration history over the last century and discussed how those immigration stories are both similar to and different from today's immigrants to Richmond. Community leader and businessman, Mark Sisisky, son of the late Congressman Norman Sisisky, was the event's moderator. Roben Farzad, Jay Ipson and Janet Meyers shared their family immigration stories, as will Guatemalan immigrant to Richmond, Felipe Marroquin (bios below). We also got a sneak peek at a forthcoming documentary about Richmond's Soviet Jewish immigrant community, "Draw Back the Curtain," which has been created by students at the University of Richmond Hillel and Jewish Family Services.  Host Committee:Rabbi Gary Creditor, Temple Beth El Rabbi Andrew Goodman, Director of Jewish Life and Campus Rabbi at University of Richmond Marco A. Grimaldo, CEO & President of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy Abby Levine, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Debbie Linick, Director for DC and Northern Virginia, JCRC of Greater Washington Rabbi Ben Romer, Congregation Or Ami Alan Ronkin, American Jewish Committee Susan Sisisky, Community Volunteer Panelists:  Roben Farzad is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor and an immigrant from Iran. He has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal and appears on NPR, CNBC, PBS, CNN, and BBC News. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Farzad began his career at Goldman Sachs. Jay M. Ipson is a Litvak-American Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The Ipp family arrived in the United States on June 12, 1947. His father found work cleaning bathrooms in a gas station. His mother Edna worked as a seamstress in Thalhimer's department store. To make their integration into American society easier, they decided to change their family name to Ipson. In 2012, Felipe Marroquin's wife of more than twenty years was deported, leaving him and his daughters shattered. His family valued education, performed volunteer work in their community and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Richmond, and honored the country they call home. He did everything in his power to save his wife from deportation, paying thousands in legal fees, rallied support of their community and church, yet nothing could save his family from the brutal deportation. Janet Slipow Meyers is a first generation native Richmonder who will share her family's immigration story as well as the story of her husband's family, who founded the Heilig-Meyers furniture company. Meyers is a lifelong educator and an active member of the local chapter of Hadassah and the Jewish Women's Club.