Led by a Loudoun-based immigration reform group, hundreds of local reform advocates, many of them undocumented residents, turned out for separate grassroots rallies earlier this month.
Helping orchestrate the marches was NOVA Presente, a new organization “dedicated to empowering the immigrant community in Northern Virginia,” according to lead organizers Noah Feldman and Giordano Hardy-Gerena.
NOVA Presente is believed to be the first immigration reform group rooted in Loudoun County. More than 350 activists gathered for the organization's first call to action in Sterling Oct. 5. Three days later, the group helped bus more than 100 locals to a rally in D.C. that drew a crowd of several thousand.
While NOVA Presente is still in its infancy, Feldman said there's fiery demand for the group in Loudoun and Northern Virginia.
“Speaking with many folks in the community, including public school officials, law enforcement, faith leaders and community leaders, it became apparent how much interest there was for an organization tailored towards the needs of the growing immigrant community,” Feldman told the Times-Mirror Oct. 11.
Feldman said he's been working in recent weeks to find office space, raise money and construct a well-honed mission statement.
Explaining NOVA Presente's objective, co-founder Hardy-Gerena noted: “Currently we are focused on getting a comprehensive immigration reform that allows undocumented immigrants a chance for an opportunity to advance themselves and their families in this country. However, we see ourselves as trying to create a climate and a culture of participation that goes beyond the push for immigration reform. Our main objective is to empower members of the immigrant community to take more agency in the issues that impact their lives … ”
While immigration reform was a politically-charged topic over the summer, attention in Washington has shifted to the current government shutdown, the federal budget fight and the Affordable Care Act.
In June, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill that includes a 13-year process for citizenship for people in the country illegally, heightened border security and an increase in work visas for foreigners interested in living and working here. Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, however, followed by saying their chamber won't take up the Senate's bill. Instead, members of the House said they would craft their own reform measure.
“It's frustrating,” Feldman said, “to see political bickering get in the way of realistic solutions for people living in our country, raising kids here, paying taxes and working hard to support this nation's growth. Immigrants have helped grow this region, regardless of how they came to this country.”
|More than 350 activists gathered for the group's first rally in Sterling Oct. 5. Three days later, the organization helped bus more than 100 locals to a rally in D.C. that drew a crowd of several thousand. Photo Courtesy/Michael Eicher|
Opponents of the current immigration proposal believe the legislation will be a detriment to American workers and infringe on the success of immigrants already here legally.
“Everything about the rallies is aimed at creating open borders with gigantic future flows of foreign workers that will further depress U.S. wages and force more Americans to become dependent upon the government,” Roy Beck, founder and president of the Arlington-based NumbersUSA, an immigration-reduction organization, notes on the group's website.
“All American workers suffer under current uncontrolled immigration policies and would suffer much more if the sponsors of the rallies get their 'comprehensive immigration reform' that would give lifetime work permits to at least 11 million illegal aliens and around 20 million new legal immigrants over the next 10 years,” Beck adds.
Whether Congress takes up immigration later this year, or whether the conversation gets pushed back another year, Feldman firmly believes there's a market for NOVA Presente in Loudoun County, where the Hispanic and Latino population is more than 12 percent, roughly the same as the national rate.
Feldman, touching on the sense he gets from the undocumented people he's worked with through his activism, said: “More than frustration, I feel the disappointment of people in the community who were so sure that something would pass and now just are not sure or have lost some hope. It is disappointing especially because it seems so many Americans believe that it is a common sense solution to the current reality of our country.”