As we mourn the victims of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings and call for practical gun violence prevention laws to be enacted on the state and national level, we must also call for an end to the harmful policies and comments issued by President Trump and his administration. The climate of fear and anti-immigrant (no matter the status) sentiments allows our worst selves to surface and commit the acts of violence and hatred which have multiplied significantly and shockingly across our country since 2016.
In addition to hateful rhetoric characterizing immigrants as “invaders,” the President’s ongoing efforts to ban immigrants and asylum-seekers from particular countries normalizes the rationale for violent hate crimes. After all, when pernicious points of view become lawful, the targeted violence comes a little closer to being condoned as based upon prejudices which have been normalized. The recent restrictions on asylum-seekers barring almost anyone who attempts to cross our southern border to seek asylum are an example of this. The repeated attacks upon immigrant survivors which erode legal protections and brand them as ‘attackers’ are an immoral violation of the principals our country was founded upon.
We must look for opportunities to speak out in support of those families, individuals and unaccompanied children who seek safety and protection. But this is not all we can and should do. At the state level we can pass and enforce laws welcoming immigrants and sheltering these victims of violence and terror. I have introduced such legislation for the past seven years. Each year the debate allowed by the majority party is more and more limited until this year, the 2019 session, when no presentation or discussion was allowed at all by the Republican majority in the House of Delegates.
The fact that the Speaker of the House felt comfortable denying any mention of hate crimes, repression of asylum-seekers or shutting down of opportunities for immigrants to become contributing members of our society, shows that repressing any mention of immigrants/asylum-seekers is acceptable even in the People’s House, the House of Delegates.
This is not acceptable. Virginia is better than this. Because we are prevented from legislating what we know is right is not a reason to be silent, not a reason to stand by while discrimination runs rampant and hate crimes are on the rise.
We have shown that grassroots action makes a difference. When we cannot change votes, we must change seats. We must step up to reclaim our General Assembly. Enough is truly enough!
(Examples of my legislation supporting immigrants and asylum-seekers: 2014 HB59 DACA; 2015,HB1479DACA, HB2234 driving privileges for undocumented; 2016 HB695 driving privileges for asylum-seekers, HB179 VA Human Rights Act; 2017, HB1419 driving privileges; 2018, HB10,Hate Crimes Reporting Act, HB12, driving privileges; 2019 HB2579, Hate Crimes Reporting Act.)