Manassas Journal Messenger | Immigration advocates fast

Under a drizzling sky in downtown Richmond, Ricardo Juarez of Woodbridge began fasting.

A pin stuck to his leather jacket that says “no one is illegal” in Spanish hints to his cause.

He began a two-day fast in Virginia’s capital on Friday and planned to sleep in a church that night before he and other immigrant rights advocates kicked off a weekend of events to promote respect for immigrants – “legal” and “illegal.”

Today, the Virginia Journey for Immigrant Justice, a coalition of groups statewide, hosts a rally at 10 a.m. in Monroe Park.

At 1 p.m. they are going to march to the capital, where another rally is scheduled.

This is the second year that Juarez and other immigrant advocates rallied in Richmond to send lawmakers a clear message.

“Thousands and thousands of people in my community still have hope,” Juarez said.

Lawmakers have filed about 50 anti-immigration bills this year, including one that would make it a misdemeanor to be unlawfully present in Virginia.

Others would require employers, charity workers and other groups to track documentation of workers and clients. Community service organizations would not be allowed to receive state or local money if they provide services to illegal immigrants, if one measure receives the Senate and the governor’s approval.

Another would deny in-state tuition rates to students who are not documented.

“Illegal immigrants pay income taxes, sales tax,” said Laura Castro, director of students for the Virginia Journey for Immigrant Justice. “By passing these terrible bills that would affect immigrants – legal and illegal – and racial profiling would increase.”

Students who would have gone to Virginia schools would go to other states, draining Virginia of young, educated minds, said Nancy Lyall, legal coordinator for Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, or Mexicans Without Borders.

“I was suffering for the oppression of my people. We are suffering raids, detention without justification on the streets, the construction industry is [slowing] down,” Juarez said, standing in front of the Virginia General Assembly building. One of the lawmakers supporting about 50 anti-immigrant bills this session stood nearby.

“I am fasting because I have with me my people’s suffering and my people’s hopes,” Juarez said.

He doesn’t plan on eating today. And he’s not alone. Castro and others are forgoing food to show their pain that they feel for their community.

One proposed bill would give local and state police authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Another would make it a felony to knowingly transport or conceal an illegal immigrant as part of a commercial business.

Juarez said the bills that legislators have proposed target the only institutions where many immigrants look for help.

“To punish or criminalize these people who help the immigrants is not right,” he said.

Juarez said he doesn’t believe most Virginians support the proposed laws.

“Virginians are good people,” Juarez said. “We don’t believe that these kind of public policies represent people’s feelings.”


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