submitted by Mason Moseley, written by Heather Greenwell
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry – Virginia
On September 14th, a group of UUs from different congregations around Virginia met for the first time to discuss establishing a statewide legislative advocacy network. Virginia will be the 18th state to organize such a network. Our goal is to work together to coordinate our political advocacy efforts with the hope to change public policy. Our unofficial name is UU Legislative Ministry – Virginia (UULM-VA). This is the current working title for the group since we won’t finalize our name and governing documents until our next meeting scheduled for January 4th in Glen Allen.
In politics, there is strength in numbers. Working together we can accomplish anything, but we can’t accomplish everything, which is why we decided to focus on only one advocacy issue for 2014. It’s not that other issues aren’t just as important, but we are new to this and we have to marshal our resources and consolidate our efforts in order to have the greatest impact. We chose an issue that many UU congregations in Virginia and other allied groups, such as the Virginia Interfaith Council for Public Policy, Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, and Virginia Organizing, and are focused on and prioritizing for the 2014 General Assembly session. By throwing our collective voice behind an issue that already has traction, we hope to provide the extra oomph to get it DONE in 2014.
The UULM-VA inaugural advocacy issue is in-state tuition for DACA recipients. This legislation would allow undocumented youth who qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. This legislation was considered during the 2013 General Assembly but did not pass with some legislators saying the U.S. Congress would take care of it under national immigration reform, which they didn’t.
The bill has been reintroduced for the 2014 Virginia General Assembly as HB59. It is inspired by the national Dream Act movement and has a bi-partisan group of legislators hoping to achieve a breakthrough in Virginia this year. This year’s bill sponsors include Virginia Delegates Tom Rust (R-Herndon), Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church) and Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington). A broad coalition of allied organizations are partnering to get it passed this year – a meaningful step towards comprehensive immigration reform that we can start right here, right now.
We are requesting every Virginia Unitarian Universalist’s help to make this happen. You can start now by contacting your Delegate to find out where they stand on HB59, in-state tuition for DACA recipients. Please tell your delegate that you support HB59, and listen to why your delegate supports or does not support the bill. This information will be invaluable as we chart a course in our efforts to get this bill passed. Visit the General Assembly webpage to find the contact information for your delegate: http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/.
Also, please plan to participate in the joint Advocacy Day on Tuesday, January 21st in Richmond. This event is being co-sponsored by Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations and Virginia Interfaith Council for Public Policy. The day will begin at 8:30 with coffee and a morning speaker, followed by policy briefings. We will then walk over to the General Assembly Building to sit in on Committee meetings; meet with our Senators and Delegates; and watch the House and Senate in action. We will then walk back to the Convention Center for lunch, an afternoon speaker, and a debriefing. The registration fee is $30. Please wear your yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirt! Here is the link to register: https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/7352/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=68897. I hope to see you there!
If you have any questions or would like to get involved in UULM-VA, please feel free to reach out to me via email or at church.
To find your Virginia legislators, click here: (http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/)
For information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals see: (http://www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals)
For information on Immigration as a Moral Issue see the Statement of Conscience adopted by the Unitarian Universalists Association (UUA) at their 2013 General Assembly (http://www.uua.org/statements/statements/288860.shtml)
UULM-VA is the 18th statewide faith based network focusing Unitarian Universalists on important and achievable state legislative issues. UULM-VA will be working this winter to strengthen its connection with all Virginia congregations. For more information about UULM-VA, please visit the (draft) website at https://sites.google.com/site/uuvlan/