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Friday, November 6, 2015

Advocacy groups push for immigration reform

Left to right: Dong Yoon Kim, Emily Kessel, and Edgar Aranda-Yanoc at NAKASEC offices in Annandale.

Despite disappointing election results – with the Republicans retaining control of both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates – advocates for the local immigrant community are stepping up their efforts to fight for immigrants’ access to health care and to become productive members of society.  

Representatives of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) spoke about their priorities at a briefing at the NAKASEC office Nov. 4.

The groups support efforts to expand eligibility for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and expand Medicaid to include those who aren’t eligible for Obamacare and can’t afford health insurance,” said Edgar Aranda-Yanoc.of VACOLAO.

DACA allows people who were brought to the United States as children to apply for temporary legal status with the right to get work permits and drivers licenses and qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

“We are committed to those issues, regardless of the election results,” said Aranda-Yanoc. “We want to be in a place that is welcoming. We will keep working to make sure immigration reform is at the top of the list for any candidate and fight back against any attempt to introduce anti-immigration legislation.”  

“Even though the elections are over, a lot of work needs to be done,” said Dong Yoon Kim, NAKASEC’s program director. On the local level, he said, that means working to ensure Fairfax County and public schools officials attempts to address a growing budget deficit don’t lead to cuts in essential school programs, such as music and arts, or larger class sizes.

Immigration advocacy groups are organizing a march on Nov. 20 – possibly from Arlington to the White House – to commemorate the anniversary of DACA and highlight the need to extend that program. There will be a workshop Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. to help people apply for recognition under DACA.

The groups are also pushing for an expansion of DACA and implementation of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents). Those initiatives were announced by the White House but are on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

Currently, those eligible for DACA must be age 31 and younger and must have been brought to the U.S. before they were 16. Those approved for DACA must reapply in two years. The expansion would allow people older than 31 to apply and would extend eligibility to three years.

Approximately 25,000 Virginians qualify for the original DACA implemented in 2012, another 4,000 would qualify under the expanded DACA, and 61,000 would qualify for DAPA.

“DACA has allowed me to work legally and drive and made school more affordable,” says Bati, an Arlington resident who was brought to the U.S. from Mongolia by his parents when he was 10.  His younger brother is a U.S. citizen, which means his parents could be eligible for DAPA. That would enable them to get better-paying jobs and Social Security numbers, and they would no longer live with the fear of deportation.

“Although DACA didn’t solve all of my problems, it gave me some of the tools I needed to become independent and self-reliant,” says Jung Bin, an Annandale resident who immigrated in 2001 from Seoul, South Korea, with his parents. DACA enabled him to pursue a degree in business information technology at Virginia Tech.

Immigrant advocates are trying to get as many people as possible to qualify for DACA before there’s a ruling on a federal lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 states on the program, said Emily Kessell, director of advocacy at NAKASEC.

The 5th Circuit Appeals Court temporarily blocked implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA. That case will go to the Supreme Court, but the plaintiffs are trying to stall a decision until after the end of the Obama Administration.


  1. DACA is an incentive for illegal immigrants to break the law. It gives their kids the right to jump the line ahead of hundreds of thousands of applicants for legal entry into the U.S.

    1. Legal immigrants already have the rights that DACA would grant to certain people already in the U.S.

    2. My earlier comment specifically refers to immigrants who are attempting to legally enter this country. I criticized DACA because it provides illegal immigrants a path to citizenship that bypasses immigration requirements that immigrants and prospective immigrants must meet. DACA beneficiaries go to the head of the line because their parents or guardians broke the law to keep them in this country. That gives the latter plenty of incentive to become criminals. Then, to add insult to injury, DAPA would allow those same lawbreaking parents and guardians a path to permanent residence. This situation is unconscionable because it rewards criminals for deliberately breaking U.S. immigration laws simply because they have children who wouldn't have been U.S. residents except for their criminal conduct.

      The United States cannot expect anyone to respect its laws if it refuses to enforces them. Accordingly, it's time to begin vigorously deporting anyone who has entered or remains this country illegally.

    3. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship. Get your facts right.

  2. Well, the election results may have been "disappointing" for some - but I know Mason District residents' are joyful their hard-working Board of Supervisors member was re-elected for another four year term.

    Those terrible Republicans - especially Republicans masquerading as "independents" - were soundly defeated; especially by our champion - Penny Gross.

    Maybe the author who wrote this story and the "immigrant advocates" reported on in this post were discouraged by the election's state-wide results - but no one is disappointed by the defeat of the 1 percenters' chosen one in Mason District.

    Thank you Ellie for sharing with your readers the views of an important segment of Virginia's population - our "New Americans" - and their desire to successfully integrate and be productive neighbors and citizens in Virginia.

    It is a feel-good story Penny and her open-minded supporters strongly endorse. While Mollie and her band of know-nothings - through their endless complaints against new apartment buildings, and demands to bulldoze Culmore - publicly demonstrate their ill-will to those less-fortunate and less wealthy than themselves.

    1. Usually I try to keep things civil and kind but reading your rudeness I can not think of any way to say a kind word. Only hope that when you teach kids out in the world what kindness is that you tell them to do as I say not what I do. I am surprised you considered yourself openminded.

    2. I am sure the author and her NIMBY pals were dissapointed in the results of the Mason District election.

      Very interesting that she is know taking a liberal bent to her posts after her candidate got trounced in the MDS election.

      Seems like it may be time for the Annandale Blog to take a break while it recuperates from the Loeffler embarrassment.

    3. Seems like every side gets a generous share of know-nothings.

  3. I own property in Mason District. I am not willing to see my neighborhood and my property and my schools become devalued because of undocumented immigrants and their overcrowding and ESL kids. If you find that to be characteristic of "know nothing's," so be it. I don't really care.

  4. DACA does not currently provide recipients a path to citizenship. They are given tools (work permit, etc) to enable them to be contributing members of the community which I what benefits everyone. It saddens me that these young people who identify as Americans and "ESL kids" are still viewed so negatively by some. We are a land of immigrants

    1. We're a land of legal immigrants. Or, at least we're supposed to be. I have nothing against immigrants. However, there is simply no justification for entering or remaining in this country illegally. Moreover, it's naive to rely of the narrow distinction between permanent residence and citizenship to justify what clearly amounts to preferential treatment for persons illegally residing in the U.S. They may refer to themselves as "dreamers", but they got here through the illegal conduct of "schemers". It's time to plug loopholes like DACA and restrict immigration to those persons who respect our laws.