March 2008

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club, March 9th, 2008  March '08 MeetingMarch ’08 Meeting
Five Minute Flash Reports

Treasurer’s report:   Lisa Richards reported that our balance currently stands at $157.55

Turner for Congress:  Mike Turner gave a brief report on his campaign.  He’ll be scheduling “Meet Mike” events throughout the 10th district.  Mike encouraged us to visit his website
www.miketurnerforcongress.com for his full biography as well as detailed positions papers on five important issues:

*         Economy and Housing
*         Affordable Universal Health Care
*         The War in Iraq
*         Transportation…and Global Warming… and Energy Independence… and National Security
*         Veterans Health Care

Mike had time to answer a few questions:

*         On immigration and undocumented workers- We need to deal with the issues.  The border fences and barriers are a colossal waste.  We must address this issue from a supply and demand perspective.
*         Campaign finance- Mike favors public funding of campaigns.
*         Occupation of Iraq- We need to get out now.

Mike Turner and his democratic primary opponent Judy Feder (www.judyfeder.com) will be joining us for a “Conversation with the Candidates” on Sunday May 4th.

Bill Day-  Bill covered multiple subjects in his extended flash report:

*     Mississippi trip with Camp Coast Care (http://www.dioms.org/katrina/camp-coast.html) – Reporting on his 4th trip to Mississippi, Bill stated that aside from improvements in the gambling area in Gulfport, a new bridge, and more gas stations, nothing else looks much different.  On the positive side, there are still many volunteers arriving to help with the rebuilding.
*      Legislative Session- Chap Peterson’s energy bill did not get out of committee which sadly leaves Virginia still lacking an energy policy.  Jill Vogel was one of only 4 senators to vote against the Uranium Mining Study bill passed by the Senate.  This bill died in committee in the House.
*      Wise County Power Plant-  In spite of 100% citizen opposition to this plant Virginia legislators continue to support it.

Linda Swanson- Linda reported on a Progressive Democrats of America (www.pdamerica.org)  event on “Ending the War Through Diplomacy”: speakers included Phyllis Bennis, Geoff Millard and Jim Moran.  Linda also mentioned the March 19th march in DC commemorating the 5th Anniversary of the war.   For more information on this event, sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, please go to http://www.5yearstoomany.org/

SSC website-  Andrea encouraged everyone to explore our new and improved website at www.sundaysupperclub.org.  Thanks to Linda Swanson for doing such a great job as our webmaster!  Features of the website include: minutes from past meetings, listings of volunteer opportunities in and around Fauquier, a calendar of upcoming events, links to various websites of interest, a community bulletin board and news articles updated daily.   We encourage you to not only visit the website regularly but also to sign up as users so that you may contribute articles and other information.  Daily visits to the website are the perfect antidote for the “SSC withdrawal” many of us face during the periods between our meetings.

For the Good of the Community

Our new feature was a big success!
Jean Loup reminded us that as we change our clocks to and from daylight savings time this is also the perfect opportunity to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

Calendar Items: (details can be found on the Community Bulletin Board on our site):

*         Saturday April 12th- Salem Community Montessori School will be holding an art auction and wine tasting at Buchanan Hall in Upperville.
*         Saturday March 22nd- The Swanson’s will be hosting a screening of “Black Diamond: Mountain Top Removal and the Fight for Coal Field Justice”.  Please contact Linda for details (Linda@baldwinridge.com)
*         Wed. April 30th- Excellence in Education Golf Tournament sponsored by the Fauquier County Committee for Excellence in Education (www.excellentteachers.org).  The committee is a 501(c)3 which provides financial assistance to outstanding teachers to enable them to participate in conferences, seminars, workshops and cultural programs to further their professional development.
*         First Thursday of the Month:  The Manassas / Manassas Park Democratic Committee hosts a monthly “Meet Up” in Manassas.  All are welcome.  Go to www.manassascitydemocrats.com for more information.

Guest Speaker- Claire Guthrie Gastanaga

Many thanks to Claire Gastanaga for giving us such a great overview of the complex issues and legislation surrounding the continuing debate over immigration.  These issues are of vital importance as we have an estimated 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants in the US, 3,000,000 of whom are children.  I apologize in advance for any errors or omissions- although I took many pages of notes I could not keep up (I think I need a class in shorthand). I encourage you to follow the links at the end of the minutes for more detailed information on this topic.
Claire began her presentation by stating her desire to live in a Commonwealth and a nation that are open and inclusive.  One of her deep concerns is that there has been no real leadership on immigration issues and therefore everyone has “gone to their corners.”  She cited what has happened in Prince William County as an example of failure of leadership.
Census data sparked the growing concern on this topic. Between 1995 and 2000 the greater Richmond area reported a 400% increase in the Latino population.  Manassas Park, Manassas City and Prince William County also experienced significant increases.  In particular the immigration issue has gotten hot in communities with older housing stock where you have both long time residents and newcomers drawn by more affordable home prices.  In these communities fears of loss of property values and fear of decreasing personal safety are exploited, often obscuring the truth.  In Prince William County for example crime rates have actually gone down as the Latino population has increased with one notable exception: street crimes against Latinos.

During the 2008 General Assembly Session our legislators considered 128 bills which would impact the immigrant community. . ( For detailed information see http://www.richmondsunlight.com/photosynthesis/7mlxg/) These bills affected four major areas:
1) Housing-  These bills enhance the powers of zoning administrators to address overcrowding issues and to increase penalties for violations.   They would allow administrators to subpoena documents and to get administrative warrants.  This could potentially jeopardize all of our property rights.  Additionally, there are no provisions in this legislation addressing the concerns of disparate enforcement.
Claire also pointed out that little has been done to encourage communication with the immigrant communities on this issue.  We cannot simply assume that immigrants from other countries where housing/living situations are different can intuit our customs and laws on this issue.

2) Law enforcement legislation-  Two bills of particular concern have passed both houses and await the governor’s signature.  The first would mandate that all sheriffs enquire into the immigration status of every person taken into custody.  Current law requires that jail and correction officers check immigration status AFTER conviction.
A second bill would establish a rebuttal presumption against bail for any person not legally in the United States who is charged with certain crimes, including DUI.  The house version of this bill includes language, supported by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, which would exempt first offense family violence from the presumption against bail (the fear is that the presumption against bail will deter reporting by victims of domestic violence).
A bill which would have instituted a statewide policy that crime victims or witnesses would not be subject to questions concerning immigration status passed the Senate (39-0) but failed in the House 46-52) despite the support of the police.
Claire made the point that much of the “law enforcement” legislation really does nothing to make us safer: another example, an undocumented immigrant can buy a car and a license for the car but cannot get a driver’s license or insurance.

3) Employment Legislation- The trend is to go after the employers.  One bill passed states that if you are guilty of a pattern and a practice of violation of federal immigration laws you will lose the right to do business.  Another bill would require all public bodies to include in public contracts a requirement that contractors not hire illegal aliens.
Claire commented that our current immigration system is really broken.  The U.S. is more dependent on foreign labor than foreign oil yet we have a national quota of 66,000 people admitted for seasonal labor for the entire US.  If exemptions to this quota are denied businesses could be put out of business.  Additionally, the current system has no policy for people to come legally and then go home.  40-50% of “illegal” immigrants have simply overstayed their visas.

4) Education- A bill which would have denied undocumented students any access to college at in-state or out-of-state tuition rates was killed in committee in the Senate.  A Senate bill which would have allowed undocumented tax-paying students to qualify for in-state tuition was amended in the house to bar every person without documentation from receiving in-state tuition payments.  The bill’s patron rejected the amendments, instead sending the bill to a conference committee where it will likely die.

Claire mentioned that most young people affected by this law have been here their whole life.

“Notable” bills which died in Committee:

Mark Cole introduced a bill which would have authorized Virginia small businesses to discriminate in employment against employees who speak a language other than English in the work place.

Scott Lingamfelter patroned a bill which stated that “English is the official language of the Commonwealth, and no state agency or local government shall provide or otherwise assist in providing any documents, information, literature, or other written materials in any language other than English.”   Claire pointed out the negative impact this would have had on issues such as tourism and business dealings with foreign companies.

A bill was also introduced that would have prevented anyone who is not a citizen from going to court to have their name changed.

Other issues:

*     A mythology exists that undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of public services.  The truth is that immigrants are not using services proportional to their population.  Undocumented workers pay sales tax, property tax and income tax.  Their tax contributions are higher than the cost of services they use.  The problem is that the money is going to the federal government and the states but the services are being paid for at the local level.  This causes fiscal and political stress at the local level.
*     Checking status is not an easy task.  The current data base only shows the name of those who have had dealings with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  United States citizens AND those who have crossed the border illegally will not show up on the data base.
*     An interesting fact:  Help Save Manassas and Help Save Old Dominion have received funding from the Pioneer Fund (www.pioneerfund.org) .  The Pioneer Fund (currently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) was created to “promote the betterment of the race through Eugenics”.

Closing thoughts:  Passing laws in the name of “immigration reform” will affect all of us, affecting the quality of life for everyone who is a language minority and potentially expanding to color minorities.

People need to talk with one another.  We need to explore ways to build community in neighborhoods with increasing diversity.

In choosing our leaders it is not about the “right” party, it’s about electing the right people.  The voters are hungry for authenticity.

What can we do?

Reach out to local leaders: Board of Supervisors, School Board, Sheriff’s department.  Tell them we expect better and that we will support them in their efforts.

Actively engage our faith communities.

Be on offense not defense.

Acknowledge peoples’ concerns- work to find reasonable and fair solutions.

Check out these links:

Pro-immigrant measures available to state and local governments- http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/misc/affirmstatelocalmenu_2005-09-13.pdf

Virginia Employers for Sensible Immigration Policy  http://www.hhr.virginia.gov/Initiatives/ImmigrationCommission/01-04-08/VESIP%20presentation%20to%20Immigration%20Commission%20.pdf

Claire’s blog- www.changeservant.blogspot.com

Hispanic Committee of Virginia- http://hcva.org/

Legal Aid Justice Center- http://www.justice4all.org/our_programs/vjc

League of Women Voter’s Immigration Study- http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=LWVUSImmigrationStudy

Mark Your Calendars for upcoming meetings of the Sunday Supper Club!

April 13th- We’ll be joined by Pablo Elliot  (from the local food project at the Airlie Conference Center)
and Harvey and Ellen Ussery (www.themodernhomestead.us)  for a discussion about local foods, sustainable farming, growing your own foods…

May 4th-  The SSC is pleased to host “A Conversation With The Candidates”  for the 10th Congressional District Democratic Primary.
Thank you to Judy Feder and Mike Turner for fitting us into their very busy schedules.
Please note the new date for the May meeting- Mother’s Day and a candidate scheduling conflict necessitate an earlier meeting date.

June 8th-  Our new superintendent of schools Dr. Jonathan Lewis will be joining us.

July 13th- Lynn Broaddus will speak with us about “greening our water”.
Lynn has vast experience with conservation groups including the Nature Conservancy and Friends of Milwaukee Rivers.

We hope to see you soon!

Happy Spring!

Andrea