Posted by Kristin McCarthy on February 02, 2017 in Blog

In Virginia, there are several ways Arab Americans can organize against problematic anti-immigrant, anti-refugee policies that are coming down from the Administration and from the Virginia state legislature. Indeed, Virginia bills are actually outflanking Trump to impose discriminatory immigration policies at the state level. While AAI continues to work nationally to challenge the legality, practicality, and implementation of the Muslim Ban – we're calling on Arab Americans in Virginia to work against these what's happening in their state. Please join the ACLU-Virginia's action alert to express your opposition to the following bills (analysis via the ACLU):

  • HB1723 would require charities and others working with refugees to report to local politicians exactly when and where refugees choose to resettle. This would mark an already vulnerable population for unconstitutional intimidation and harassment.
  • HB2002 would require nonprofit refugee resettlement agencies to report information about its residents to the state Department of Social Services. Refugees already undergo strict screening by Homeland Security and the FBI before resettling in America.
  • HB2000 and HB2236 attempt to force localities into “volunteering” to enforce federal immigration laws using local tax dollars by threatening withdrawal of state funds. Communities will be less safe if immigrants see local police as nothing more than an arm of ICE and become reluctant to cooperate in solving crimes. Virginia has had a state law mandating all people taken into custody have their immigration status checked when admitted, meaning ICE already has all they need to know in order to keep criminal aliens from being released if they see them as dangerous to public safety.
  • HB2001 would require every employee of public colleges and universities to “cooperate” with immigration enforcement becoming informers for ICE.
  • HB1468 seeks to force state and local jails to hold people for U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) even after they've served their terms and are supposed to be released. Sheriffs and other jail officials know that's unconstitutional. Governor McAuliffe vetoed a nearly identical bill last year.

There's yet another Virginia state bill that AAI is organizing in opposition to, this one on free speech and justice for Palestine:

  • HB 2261: A bill that would re-define Anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic speech. While we take seriously the real rise of anti-Semitism globally, the effort to paint people who are critical of Israeli policy as anti-Semitic is harmful to our right to advocate for justice for Palestine.

A similar bill was introduced and passed by the U.S. Senate late last year – and AAI rapidly responded to oppose the bill, which was ultimately not taken up by the House. We expect it to be re-introduced this year and will again mobilize opposition to the broad and damaging move to criminalize criticism of Israeli policy. Palestine Legal has this great legal memo explaining why the Virginia state bill must be opposed. AAI urges you to read it and share it with your representatives. You can use this action alert sent by Jewish Voice for Peace to contact your VA delegates. The bill has been introduced and referred to committee.