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. 

Facts About Immigration and U.S. Policy

Icon August 19, 2014 - 13:52 Published by the Economic Policy Institute By Daniel Costa, David Cooper, and Heidi Shierholz | August 12, 2014 While immigration is among the most important issues the country faces, misperceptions persist about fundamental aspects of this crucial topic—such as the size and composition of the immigrant population, how immigration affects the economy and the workforce, the budgetary impact of unauthorized immigration, why increasing numbers of unaccompanied migrant children are arriving at the United States’ Southwest border, and the various facets of U.S. labor migration policy. This FAQ provides essential background on these topics. Read more...

New York Times Editorial: Mr. Obama, Your Move

Icon August 12, 2014 - 19:50 Posted on August 9 by the New York Times Editorial Board Sometime in late summer, if predictions are right, President Obama will use his executive authority to protect many unauthorized immigrants from deportation. We don’t know the details. Mr. Obama and the Department of Homeland Security have not yet supplied the who, what, when or even, officially, whether. But Mr. Obama has promised to respond to Congress’s refusal to act on immigration reform. And the most obvious thing is to lift the threat of deportation from immigrants who should be the lowest priority for removal: those with citizen children, jobs, clean records and strong community ties. Some reports put the size of that group at four million to five million. The mere possibility of Mr. Obama’s protecting any of the 11 million immigrants living here outside the law is already making Republicans clutch at their chests and cry out: Oh, the legality! He has done nothing yet, but right-wingers have pre-emptively declared him Caesar, crossing a Rubicon into lawlessness. In truth, Mr. Obama is well within his authority to madden the right. His power to conduct immigration policy is vast. Congress has given the president broad flexibility and discretion to enforce immigration law. It has also given him the resources to deport about 350,000 to 400,000 people a year, as Mr. Obama has done, relentlessly. It could have given him billions more to deport everyone, but it has not. For Mr. Obama to use the tools at hand to focus on high-priority targets — felons, violent criminals, public-safety and national-security threats — and to let many others alone would be a rational and entirely lawful exercise of discretion. It is the kind of thing prosecutors, police and other law-enforcement and regulatory agencies do every day. And with the authority to defer deportations of certain immigrants comes the authority, clearly spelled out in federal statute, to give them permission to work. Despite the shrill alarms, deferring deportation is not the dreaded “amnesty” that Republicans made a dirty word. It is temporary and revocable. It is not legalization; it is not a path to citizenship; and it permanently fixes nothing. But there is clearly a value to a program, however limited, that tells the enshadowed population: Come out, give us your names; keep working and paying taxes, supporting your families and staying off the dole. And the national interest goes well beyond such practical benefits. Consider the cost, in lawlessness and squandered resources, of indiscriminate immigration enforcement. The wastefulness of chasing millions who pose no threat but keep the economy afloat. The crime and exploitation that flourish wherever the undocumented remain hidden and vulnerable. The rampant wage-and-hour violations that off-the-books workers endure in silence. The civil-rights abuses when cops commit racial profiling, when racist sheriffs stage “crime suppression” patrols to sweep up those with brown skin. The cost to all workers when unscrupulous employers push pay and working conditions to rock-bottom levels. The ripe conditions for crime in communities where vulnerable immigrants fear and avoid the police. The country understands this, and was once moving toward an overhaul of the immigration system. But Congress has failed at every turn. Even a small-scale idea — legalizing “Dreamers” who were brought here as children and are Americans in all but name — has been repeatedly stymied by the nativist right. Pressured by those young strivers, Mr. Obama used his authority in 2012 to allow them a two-year reprieve to stay legally and work. Now the president is poised to expand this shield — possibly to the Dreamers’ parents, siblings, grandparents and perhaps millions of others. If Mr. Obama acts, as he should, and the right wing explodes, it will be worth taking time to consider what Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Steve King and their hard-core colleagues and allies would have Mr. Obama do. For them, the right number of unauthorized immigrants to welcome is zero; the right time is never. They would let the system rot in place, to maintain the fiction that the country can deport its way to lawfulness. Their dishonesty is repellent, as is their blindness to the lawless status quo, and to the cruelty of denying the hopes of millions whose labor is welcomed but whose humanity is not. Mr. Obama’s critics in Congress belong to a branch of government that has chosen to do nothing constructive about immigration — not even to resolve this summer’s crisis of migrant children at the border, which they looked at and punted on, before going on vacation. This is, after all, an election year. They have abandoned a difficult job to the care of Mr. Obama. They are in no position to complain when he does it.

Harrisonburg Chapter Action Update!

Icon July 31, 2014 - 19:34 Our Harrisonburg Chapter stood up for immigration reform yesterday by presenting a backbone to U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte's staff to encourage him to have courage and support immigration reform. The Chapter requested a meeting with Rep. Goodlatte and waited for a response in his office. Unfortunately, the police escorted the leaders out of the office after hours of waiting to hear about a meeting. Check out the video below for more!
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Harrisonburg Chapter Leaders Need Your Help!

Icon July 30, 2014 - 20:08 Virginia Organizing leaders in Harrisonburg are turning up the heat on U.S. Representative and House Judiciary Chairperson Bob Goodlatte! Constituents marched to Representative Goodlatte's office today to deliver a backbone and encourage him to stand up for immigration reform. We asked for a meeting with Representative Goodlatte and were told that a request would be submitted for review.  This is unacceptable. We are staying in his office until we get a meeting. Representative Goodlatte is in an important position to stand up for the people in his district and has the power to make positive changes to the current immigration system—a system he admits is broken. We want a meeting and we want your help. Will you please call Representative Goodlatte’s Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-5431 or his Roanoke office at (540) 857-2672 and ask that he schedule a meeting with Virginia Organizing and constituents regarding immigration reform? Here’s what one of our leaders had to say to the media: “As a DACA recipient, it is important to me that we stay involved and focused on immigration reform, as this issue affects so many people in our community,” said Virginia Organizing Harrisonburg Chapter leader Dulce Elias. “Representative Goodlatte told me personally at a town hall meeting that people like me deserve an opportunity to stay here. I’m just asking that he stand by his word and do something. He has the power—I hope he has the courage.” Thank you for your swift action on this! In solidarity, Kenia Lopez Harrisonburg (from inside Representative Goodlatte’s office)

Let's Encourage President Obama to Take Action

Icon July 29, 2014 - 17:33 Congress will soon leave for a five-week vacation. But that does not mean that we can’t make some progress on immigration reform while they are away!   President Barack Obama is reportedly considering some major changes.   According to a recent LA Times news article:   “Even as President Obama grapples with the crisis of immigrant children arriving at the Southwest border, White House officials are laying the groundwork for a large-scale expansion of immigrant rights that would come by executive action within weeks." Click here to be taken to our website where the full article is posted.   As you know, Virginia Organizing and many other groups have been working very hard to encourage Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, but Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner and House leadership have ignored the voices of millions of Americans calling for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.   It’s time to go over their heads.   Would you please call President Obama at 866-473-5915 and encourage him to take executive action to stop the deportations that are tearing families apart? Tell him what you believe: we need comprehensive immigration reform and he should take whatever action gets us closer to that goal.   Congress’ delays have cost far too much for far too many people already. Not one more family should be torn apart by our nation’s failing immigration policies.   Call President Obama at 866-473-5915 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to encourage action to stop deportations.   Sincerely,   Maria Fornella South Hampton Roads Chapter    P.S. We will have a major action in Harrisonburg on Wednesday, July 30. Our Harrisonburg Chapter leaders will be presenting Congressman Bob Goodlatte with a backbone – a symbol of what he has been missing. As Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he has not taken action that is needed to fix what even he says is a “broken immigration system.” Call his Roanoke office at (540) 857-2672 and encourage him to do something! Contact Isabel Castillo for more information. We will also have other immigration reform actions across the state in the next month:   “Light The Way” vigil in Virginia Beach on August 1 (Contact Laura Castro for more information)   “Light the Way” vigil on the Eastern Shore on August 23 (Contact Laura Castro for more information)   Vigil in Fredericksburg on August 25 (Contact Addie Alexander for more information)

Poll: Let border kids stay

Icon July 29, 2014 - 15:41 Published in Politico on July 29, 2014 By Jonathan Topaz Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the undocumented Central American children entering along the U.S.-Mexico border should be treated as refugees, a new poll shows. According to a poll released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute, 69 percent of those surveyed believe U.S. authorities should treat the children as refugees and allow them to stay in the country if it is determined it is not safe for them to return to their home country. Twenty-seven percent of Americans say the children should be treated as illegal immigrants and should be deported. Seventy-one percent also say they mostly or completely agree that the U.S. should provide refuge and protection for all people who come to the U.S. if they are fleeing serious danger in their home country, the poll found. But 59 percent of Americans say they mostly or completely agree with the statement that the allowing the children to stay will increase illegal immigration. The findings come as the Obama administration and Congress debate how to respond to the influx of more than 50,000 undocumented children that have arrived at the border since October. Congressional Republicans are largely pushing for a change to a 2008 law that would expedite the deportation process for the children, while Democrats have resisted a change in the law. Seventy-nine percent of Americans call the situation along the border a “crisis” or a “serious” problem and 80 percent said they had heard at least a little about the border situation. The survey was conducted July 23-27 with 1,026 adults on landlines and cellphones. The margin for error is plus-or-minus 3.1 points.

White House Pursuing Plans to Expand Immigrant Rights

Icon July 28, 2014 - 11:15 Published in the LA Times By Christi Parsons, Brian Bennett, Lisa Mascaro Even as President Obama grapples with the crisis of immigrant children arriving at the Southwest border, White House officials are laying the groundwork for a large-scale expansion of immigrant rights that would come by executive action within weeks. Officials signaled strongly Friday that Obama's move would shield from deportation large numbers of immigrants living in the country illegally, as advocacy groups have demanded. Roughly 5 million of the estimated 11 million people who entered the country without legal authorization or overstayed their visas could be protected under a leading option the White House is considering, according to officials who discussed the proposals on condition of anonymity. Obama said last month that because Congress had failed to act on comprehensive immigration reform, he would take executive action to "fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own." That move will come by the end of the summer, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters Friday. Some officials had advocated waiting until after the November midterm election. Any such move would prompt a major clash with congressional Republicans, and at least some White House officials appeared to relish the prospect that the GOP might overreach in its response and act in a politically self-destructive manner. When the decision is announced, it will "increase the angry reactions from Republicans," Pfeiffer said. "I would not discount the possibility" that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama over his next immigration moves, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had "opened the door to impeachment" by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority. Pfeiffer made his comments at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Boehner repeatedly has ruled out calls for impeachment proceedings, and his lawsuit against Obama has been widely seen as an effort to provide an alternative for Republicans infuriated by what they see as too much unilateral action by the president. But the open references to impeachment at the White House on Friday suggest that administration officials are trying to shape the political battleground in advance — portraying Republicans as obstructionist before launching a broad-sweeping executive action on a front where conservative sensitivities are particularly keen: immigration policy. The White House is entertaining a range of possibilities that would speed up deportations in some cases but forestall them in many others. Obama could use his executive powers to expedite deportations in response to the current border crisis, in an effort to clear the large numbers of unaccompanied minors gathering daily in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. At the same time, he seems likely to act to prevent deportations of many of the immigrants already living, working and raising children in the U.S. One option would allow immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens to apply for temporary legal status which would let them work legally in the U.S. Because children born in the country automatically receive U.S. citizenship, that option could affect about 5 million people, researchers estimate. A second option would be to allow temporary legal status for the parents of young people already granted deportation deferrals by the Obama administration. That would affect a smaller, but still sizable, number of people. So far, more than 520,000 people have received permits to stay and work in the U.S. under the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created in 2012 for young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Leading Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, already have called for ending the deferred action program, and any move to expand it by including parents would be certain to draw a furious response from conservatives. Wary of the president's potential course of action, Republicans were both irritated by Pfeiffer's threat and critical of what they saw as an effort to stir up Democratic voters and financial donors. The campaign arm of the House Democratic leadership began a fundraising drive featuring Pfeiffer's impeachment forecast within hours of his making it. "We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals," said Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel. "It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border," he said. As his aides worked on the longer-term immigration plan, Obama on Friday met at the White House with the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, hoping to enlist their help in stemming the flow of young migrants. An estimated 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico since last October. Obama told the presidents that children who don't have "proper claims" to admission to the U.S. will have to go back home. Aides said the leaders also agreed on the need to address poverty and violence in Central America. "The American people and my administration have great compassion for these children," Obama told reporters, with the other presidents at his side. "But I also emphasized to my friends that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at risk." How to do that — and how to pay for it — continued to stymie Congress. Republicans, who balked at the administration's request for $3.7 billion to increase the number of deportation courts, bolster border security and care for the children who have arrived, proposed a scaled-back plan Friday for less than $1 billion. Senate Democrats have proposed $2.7 billion. Neither is expected to win support from both chambers. With Congress only a few days from its long August break, money is running out to care for the youths and process their immigration cases. Border Patrol agents have been working overtime, and Customs and Border Protection has racked up large bills to provide food and transportation to handle the influx. If Congress doesn't approve more spending, agency officials will have to divert money from programs that speed up cross-border trade and cargo, Customs and Border Protection chief Gil Kerlikowske said in a C-SPAN interview. Money, though, is only part of the problem. House Republicans have insisted on amending a 2008 law that guarantees hearings before unaccompanied children can be returned to their home countries. Senate Democrats mostly oppose that idea. The White House has sent mixed messages, initially saying Congress should change the law, then backing down after opposition from Senate Democrats. White House officials now say Congress should approve the additional funds first. Republicans have also been split on immigration, with many conservatives arguing that Congress should not act because the administration cannot be trusted to enforce the immigration laws. But a majority of GOP lawmakers appeared prepared to break ranks with the conservatives and move ahead for a vote next week. "The vast majority of our members want to solve this and do it in a targeted way that actually addresses the problem," Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the incoming GOP whip, said after a closed session Friday of House Republicans. Under the House Republican proposal, Congress would reimburse states for deploying National Guard troops, as Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has done, and speed up processing of the children's immigration claims. The House proposal would also allow law enforcement personnel to operate on public lands beyond what is now allowed, a long-standing issue in some border states. "If we do nothing, the president is going to blame us for doing nothing," said Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.). "We have to step up and show we're going to do this in an orderly, lawful, compassionate way."