June 2009

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club June 14th 2009

Thank you to all who joined us this evening as we inaugurated the SSC’s new venue at Poplar Springs Inn.  All who came agreed that this is a truly lovely spot and we thank Howard Foer for his generosity in welcoming us and Michael Rainger for facilitating our move here.  Many of us received a brief tour of the facility and are already planning reasons to come back for a meal (the menu looks amazing) or drinks on the beautiful patio while listening to music on Friday evenings.  Capping off the evening, Donna Lipinski gave a fascinating and informative presentation on the myths and realities surrounding immigration issues and policies.

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report- No treasurer’s report this month though we are expecting to need funds in the near future for a necessary web site upgrade; any and all contributions are appreciated.

Welcome to Poplar Springs- Howard Foer was unable to join us this evening so Michael Rainger welcomed us to Poplar Springs.  Michael informed us that Poplar Springs has been “going green” for quite some time, beginning the transformation by converting to geothermal in 2002.  Poplar Springs also has their own secondary water treatment plant and has recently switched to all CFL light bulbs.  Those who missed Michael’s talk on Poplar Springs also missed the opportunity to win your own handy and environmentally friendly Poplar Springs water bottle!  Second chances may be available at our July meeting.

“Go Green/Live Sustainable Lives”- Michael reported on this local movement which encourages us to “go green” through education, conversation and support from our schools.  The idea that “As the world goes, so goes the Piedmont” reflects the reality that the problems faced here are typical of those faced around the world.  In approaching environmental issues a sense of urgency is now required.  We must ask ourselves three questions and involve people in the conversation to arrive at answers: 1) How do we get 110% participation in conservation efforts? 2) What is a progressive (green) county? 3) Why do we need to accelerate programs?

Fauquier County Fair- Lisa Richard is recruiting volunteers to staff the Fauquier Democrats table at the Fauquier County Fair, Thursday July 16th through Sunday the 19th.  If you need an excuse to eat fair food, play with helium and hand out goodies to young and old please contact Lisa or David Roos (davidmroos@aol.com)  to volunteer for a few hours.

Electric Planning Grid- John Anderson filled us in on the Friday, June 12th house subcommittee meeting:  “The Future of the Grid: Proposals for Reforming National Transmission Policy.” This hearing addressed proposals for new legislation on transmission planning, cost allocation and siting authority.  Chris Miller of the Piedmont Environmental Council was one of twelve witnesses called to speak.  For details visit:

http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=54&extmode=day&date=2009-06-12

http://solveclimate.com/blog/20090617/house-testimony-undermines-wisdom-massive-electric-grid-expansion

AAHA “Footprints to Change” – The Afro-American Heritage Museum in The Plains (http://www.aahafauquier.org/) is closed while they work on the permanent installation of this exhibit, set to open on August 1st, 2009.  The exhibit will incorporate four specific periods in history: “From Africa to Jamestown,” “The American Revolution,” “The Underground Railroad in Fauquier,” and “Social Movements” The intention is to illustrate the significance of African Americans to the formation of the United States we live in today.  Julie Turner encouraged everyone to come to the museum on Wednesday’s beginning at 11:00 and help with this exciting endeavor.  No artistic skills necessary.  Please contact Julie at jturnerdcc@verizon.net for more information or simply drop on by if you have a few hours.

June 9th, Democratic Primary- David Roos reported that turnout for the primary on Tuesday was two times greater than predicted.  Virginia is one of only two states holding governor’s races this year which means that our contest is generating a lot of outside interest and financing.  Creigh Deeds handily won the primary for governor with 50% of the votes and Jody Wagner prevailed in the race for Lt. Governor with 74% of the vote.  Steve Shannon is the Democratic candidate for Attorney General.

Equality Virginia petition- Andrea Martens brought copies of EV’s petition in support of changing Virginia law to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state employees from discrimination in the workplace.  Currently there is an executive order issued by the governor which prohibits this discrimination but once Governor Kaine leaves office the order is no longer valid.  Equality Virginia has tried multiple times to get this legislation passed.  Perhaps with your help, this will be the year!  Andrea will have the petitions at future SSC meetings or you may sign online at https://secure2.convio.net/eqva/site/SSurvey?SURVEY_ID=1920&ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&JServSessionIdr011=xmo0ve26b3.app44b

Community Announcements

Donna Lipinski invited us to attend the next meeting of the Holistic Business Alliance on June 24th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM, being held at  Donna’s Blue Ridge Immigration office at 9 North 3rd St.

Bill Day announced the next meeting of the Communities of Peace dance club which will be held on Friday June 26th at the Marterella Vineyard off of Rt. 17 (turn off at Ben and Mary’s Steakhouse) from 7:00-10:00 PM.  This group meets on an irregular basis and is free and open to all- even those with two left feet J

Bill also mentioned that the Communities of Peace Adult Forum will be held Sunday June 28th at Gerry Eitner’s.  Please contact Bill for more information at wsdayjr@gmail.com

Linda Dulicai invited us to attend “Tea and Learn”, a series being held the last Friday of the month from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM at Wegmans in Gainesville. On Friday June 26th the topic will be “food labels you wouldn’t think you ever needed to read.” The series should be a lot of fun- please join in.

Guest Speaker

“Do Fences Really Make Good Neighbors”

 

Donna Lipinski’s presentation focused on what needs fixing in our immigration system and how immigration reform will have a positive impact on Virginia and the entire country.   As Donna covered a lot of ground, I’ve attached her PowerPoint presentation as well as a number of other documents which contain many interesting facts and figures.  Thank you so much to Donna for sharing her vast knowledge and passion for the subject with us.  I encourage all to go deeper than my “cliff notes” summary and explore the other documents.

Basic Terminology

Immigrant/permanent resident alien-  Any person who is not a citizen of the United States and who lives in the U.S. under lawfully recognized and legally recorded permanent residence as an immigrant.

Non-immigrant- a foreigner who enters the United States temporarily for a specific purpose and who must fulfill two requirements: permanent residency overseas and actual qualification for the nonimmigrant classification. Some of the nonimmigrant classifications are students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, exchange visitors, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, and religious workers. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor children.

Refugee- A refugee is anybody who is incapable or reluctant to go back to his or her country of nationality due to fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a unique social group, or political views. Refugees are entitled to adjust to the legal permanent resident category after one year of continuous presence in the United States.
Unauthorized immigrant- Undocumented foreigners who live in the United States illegally, either through illegal entry or overstaying a visa.

A Few Facts:

Currently there are over 12 million undocumented people (roughly equivalent to the population of all of New England) in the U.S., many with U.S. citizen and lawful resident family members.
U.S. citizens may have to wait for as much as 16 years to be reunited with family members, such as children over the age of 21.

Lawful residents may have to wait up to 7 years to be legally reunited with spouses and minor children.

There is an escalating need for more entry-level workers in the healthcare, agricultural, and service industries.

Many undocumented people have filled jobs that few Americans want; restaurant workers, landscapers, cab drivers, cleaning services, caretakers…

Approaches for Fixing Our Immigration System: walls, piecemeal, holistic, inaction

Walls

“… Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence…”  Robert Frost

§         National security arguments for building the walls include keeping out WMD’s, deterring unauthorized immigrants, and preventing terrorists from launching attacks.
§         We need to protect 2000 miles on our southwest border, 4000 miles on the northern border, and 5000 miles on the Gulf Coast, Pacific and Atlantic shorelines.
§         We have used the “prevention through deterrence” strategy since 1994 and although we’ve spent billions and constructed 302 miles of pedestrian and vehicle fencing along the U.S./Mexico border apprehensions are down, the success rate of illegals entering the U.S. is approximately 90% and networks of increasingly sophisticated and technologically savvy smugglers have been created.
§         Because of increased border security, people cannot go back and forth as easily and therefore once they are here they must stay.

40% of unauthorized immigrants enter with legal visas but overstay and violate their visas.

Piecemeal

This approach fixes immediate needs such as allowing more visas for agricultural workers and working toward passage of  the “Dream Act” (The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act is a piece of proposed federal legislation that was introduced in the US Senate, and the US House of Representatives on March 26, 2009. This bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency).

The piecemeal approach has been tried unsuccessfully before and creates a situation where there is less desire for comprehensive reform.

Holistic
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Key Elements

Reunite families- eliminating backlogs and allowing family members to pay fines and adjust their immigration status without having to leave the U.S.

Establish a “break the mold” worker program to provide visas, full labor rights, job portability and a path to permanent residency for people working in low or semi-skilled jobs.

Mandate the use of biometric, machine-readable and tamper-resistant immigration documents.
Expand humanitarian visas to include victims of immigration fraud.

Increase the number of visas for skilled workers which will assist the U.S. to remain competitive in business and medicine.

Enhance enforcement efforts by creating a workable electronic national database for employers to verify the immigration status of workers.

Increase fines for businesses employing undocumented workers.

Increase penalties for traffickers.

Benefits of this approach include: leveling the playing field and increasing tax revenue by requiring undocumented workers to become legal tax payers, lifting wages for all workers, reducing employers’ opportunities to exploit workers, creating legal channels for workers to come to the U.S. thereby protecting U.S. workers from unfair competition and allowing us to focus resources on real security threats.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation more than pays for itself through increased income and payroll tax revenues.

Virginia

Facts

Virginia’s Hispanic population is the 16th largest in the nation and constitutes 6.1% of our population.

The overwhelming majority of Hispanic citizens are under the age of 40.

Hispanic owned businesses have increased by 67% in the past 9 years.

Hispanic citizens have more education than the general population.

60% of Hispanics in Virginia are U.S. citizens; the remainder are legal or illegal immigrants.

Virginia’s undocumented population is between 250,000 and 300,000 individuals.

Undocumented immigrants working “on the books” pay $114 to $137 million in Social Security and Medicare taxes and $145 to $174 million in state income, excise and property taxes annually.

50 to 75% of undocumented immigrants pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes and all pay sales taxes.

Undocumented immigrants have paid about $520 billion dollars to the Social Security Administration.   They cannot collect this money so it sits in an “earning suspense fund” and will help pay for our retirements.

The undocumented population provides critical labor to certain industries, including construction, agriculture, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality.

Legislation

140 pieces of immigration legislation were introduced during the 2008 General Assembly Session on topics such as law enforcement, employment and business, housing and zoning, transportation and identification, and access to education.
Visit http://leg1.state.va.us/081/lst/LS276901.HTM for details of the legislation.

Misperceptions
Virginia law enforcement officers have their hands tied when dealing with illegal immigrants who commit crimes.  In truth, officers possess all the authority they need to pursue violent criminals, regardless of immigration status, and to detain criminals who have also violated immigration law.

The only thing VA law enforcement officers are not specifically empowered to do is to round up immigrants for purely administrative violations of federal civil immigration law.

Crime Statistics

As immigration rates have risen, the crime rate has dropped.

Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

Among males 18-39 the incarceration rate of the foreign-born was substantially less (almost 4 times) than that of the U.S.-born.

Immigrants in Virginia appear to commit less serious crimes than native-born Americans.

A Few More Facts

Immigrants and their families are learning English at the same rate as immigrants in previous eras: 2nd generation immigrants have a 91% fluency rate, 3rd generation immigrants have a 97% fluency rate.

Immigrants create jobs and bolster the economy.

Immigrants pay taxes.

Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for public benefits.

According to the Washington Post: “Immigrants and their children have a ‘modest positive influence’ on government spending… contributing about $80,000 more per person in tax dollars over the long run than they claim in government benefits and services…”

For those interested in keeping informed on immigration issues, Donna is creating a listserve called Virginians for Immigration Reform (VIR).  She will use this to disseminate the latest information on proposed changes to Virginia and Federal immigration law as well as to rally support when there is an urgent need to contact our elected officials regarding immigration issues.  If you are interested in being added to VIR, please email Donna at donna@blueridgeimmigration.com

Thank you once again Donna for being such a terrific inaugural speaker at Poplar Springs!  We know this is the first of many wonderful meetings in our lovely new home.

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

July 12th- This month the SSC experiments with a new format; we’ll be welcoming three guest speakers, all addressing environmental concerns.  First, Michael Rainger will speak with us about his environmental work and then Supervisor Terry Nyhous and Tim Mize of the Fauquier Extension Office will educate us on caring for our lawns in an ecologically friendly way.

August 9th and Sept. 13th- Stay tuned.

Oct. 11th-  Karen White of the Afro-American Historical Association joins us to speak about the great work of the AAHA and their newly (as of October) published book.

Warmly,
Andrea