Beyer Hails Tahirih Pro-Immigrant Group Here

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, whose 8th District of Virginia includes the City of Falls Church, appeared at a special meeting of the Falls Church-based chapter of the Tahirih Justice Center last Thursday to accept appreciation for his work to include the immigration-justice seeking organization in a substantial federal funding request and to hear updates on the non-profit organization’s work.

“It was a unique moment for us” to have the Congressman there, said Casey Carter Swegman, public policy director for the Tahirih office here, which is its headquarters for the D.C. Metro area and one of five urban centers in the U.S.

The organization supports women and girls who come as immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, offering free social services, from direct representation to emergency shelter, food and healthcare, community outreach and training.

“We are lucky in Falls Church to have a congressman who supports us both morally and politically,” Swegman said of Rep. Beyer, whose current funding request for the organization is over $1 million.

With a staff of over 100 covering five U.S. urban centers, over 25 years Tahirih has trained and educated 13,934 frontline professionals and community members, including judges, police officers, healthcare staff and social service providers, and assisted nearly 30,000 women, girls and other survivors seeking access to justice. It has welcomed more than 158,000 users to Tahirih,org and more than 25,000 users to 

In Falls Church, the organization has a working relationship with Welcoming Falls Church, headed by Paul Boesen, who attended last week’s meeting with Beyer held at the Tahirih offices in Seven Corners.

Though not an immigrant, himself, nor a woman, Beyer told the meeting, he has a sister, three daughters and a wife, and importantly, an influential grandmother who was an immigrant who grew up on a chicken farm in California. Within a generation, she raised a daughter who became a graduate of the University of California.

His more recent connection with the issue is the result of the fact that the Falls Church-based automobile dealership established by his father and that he shared ownership with his brother, Mike, until he recently sold off his share, have had two-thirds to three-fourths of its employees being composed of persons who were born other than in the U.S., from places like India, Iran, Russia, Vietnam and the sub-African continent.

Falls Church’s U.S. Rep. Don Beyer spoke to a meeting of the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church on immigration reform last week. (News-Press Photo)

“These employees work very hard, they send money back home to their families, and their children do well here,” Beyer said. “They come with nothing, and within a generation, like my grandmother, are graduating their children from universities.”

The event last week was also an occasion for the organization to celebrate Judge Jon Tigar’s court ruling, with Tahirih as a plaintiff in the case, striking down the U.S.’s asylum ban. Charlotte Gillingham, litigation counsel at the Tahirih center, stated, “The court’s decision today is an important step toward ensuring that survivors of gender-based violence, and all immigrants fleeing persecution, are able to exercise their right to seek asylum with dignity and fairness and without fear of being sent back in harm’s way.”

A guest at the event was Aicha Abdoulaye, a native of Niger, who attested in her remarks to the important work the justice center is doing. 

In a related development, Barfonce Baldwin, with 15 years experience in this field, has accepted the post of executive director for the Falls Church-based homelessness organization, Homestretch, to replace the retiring Christopher Fay (see story, elsewhere this issue).

On its website, the Tahirih Justice Center states it “is a secular organization founded on the principles of the Bahai faith that affirms “we are one human family,  we believe that the welfare of each of us is inextricably bound to the welfare of all.”    

As such, the website stated, “We reject white supremacy, anti-Blackness, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression, and acknowledge the harm they cause. We believe that our laws and systems too often benefit those with power and privilege and must be transformed to advance gender equality, racial justice and social equity.”