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by Del. Ken Plum September 14, 2017 at 10:15 am 36 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

A Kentucky school administrator recently expressed sentiments that I feel but could not write as clearly as she did. In an op-ed piece in the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader she wrote:

“Social justice, civil discourse, empathy, historical context and civic engagement are at the heart of preventing and resolving instances like the one we witnessed there (in Charlottesville). … If we subscribe to the belief that hate is a learned behavior, we must also take ownership for failing to provide an educational space to combat the inequality that haunts minorities every day and that paralyzes our nation in times of tragedy. … History matters. Civic engagement matters. And, because of their decline, social justice, civil discourse, and empathy have become lost arts in a nation of people who can no longer talk to one another.”

As a former teacher of history and government, I especially appreciated her call for “a strong social studies curriculum that provides equitable opportunities for civic engagement, civil discourse and historical context.”

The ignorance of history shown by those who have been leading the opposition to removing Confederate statues is appalling. The statues were erected during times when white supremacy efforts termed the “Lost Cause” were at their strongest. Beginning in the late 19th century there were many movements to glorify the Old South and to justify the Civil War, or the “War of Northern Aggression” as they called it, and the erection of statues was part of it. Paralleling those activities was the passage of legislation that virtually took away the right of African Americans to vote and that separated the races in public schools and most every aspect of society. The second surge of erecting statues came when the white supremacists were opposing the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Viewed in their historic context, these statutes represented a repression of social justice, failure of civil discourse and lack of empathy on the part of those supporting them.

Equally as appalling is the lack of knowledge or the unwillingness to admit the central role that immigrants have played in our history. The history of the land we now call Virginia did not begin when the English arrived in 1607; a civilization existed here for at least 15,000 years before that time. That makes all of us except for Native Americans descendant of immigrants.

There is seldom a day that passes that I do not meet someone who may be brand new or first- or second-generation Americans who are making our communities, society and economy stronger and better. Many choose to ignore the history of immigrants especially most recently that of dependent children. They may be undocumented, but they are not “illegals” — people are not illegal.

Certainly, our immigration system needs work. Endless paperwork, complex bureaucracy and an entanglement of laws sometime stand in the way of people who should be given a path to citizenship that can be navigated. I thought that Richard Cohen, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, expressed it best when he said of the decision to rescind DACA that it was “one of the most senseless, heartless, inhumane acts of any president in recent memory.”

We should know better and certainly we must insist that all act better!

by Dave Emke September 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm 45 Comments

An announcement Tuesday morning from the Trump Administration that it will be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy has elicited spirited response from Virginia’s Democratic delegation in Congress.

DACA, implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, allows nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants living in the United States to apply for renewable two-year visas. It is available to individuals who arrived in the United States before the year 2007 who were under the age of 16 at the time of arrival and under the age of 31 at the time of implementation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday morning on behalf of the Administration. Afterward, both of Virginia’s senators released statements of outrage on their Twitter accounts. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) says the decision is “heartless.”

The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act has been introduced several times in Congress in recent years. The current version was introduced in July by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). It would institute a multi-phase process for qualifying alien minors (so-called “DREAMers”) in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and, upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), in his statement, said DACA is a “promise” that has allowed children of undocumented immigrants to “realize their full potential.”

In a statement released following Sessions’ remarks, President Donald Trump said DACA has “helped spur a humanitarian crisis — the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America including, in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13.”

The decades-long failure of Washington, D.C. to enforce federal immigration law has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system. Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.

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