Last Friday, U.S. Senator Mark Warner visited the Reston Interfaith offices where he met with representatives from diverse faith communities, advocacy groups, community leaders and students for a roundtable discussion on immigration policy, in what he termed as the first of a series of listening events.
In introducing him, CEO Kerrie Wilson offered gratitude for his well-known approach to developing bipartisan consensus on tough issues from Social Security to sequestration, and recalled his success as Governor in eliminating record deficits while protecting core human services. Warner quickly reinforced Nonprofit Virginia’s legislative platform, saying Virginia won’t solve transportation by diverting dollars from the General Fund, and supporting the need to act now to expand Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians.
Senator Warner gave an update on his current work in Washington and then opened the floor for questions. Guests discussed pressing issues facing their communities, and asked how reform proposals will address the high deportation rate and its effect on families, costs of the road to citizenship, and the challenges immigrant workers and families face in integrating with the community, including English competency requirements. Senator Warner acknowledged these issues, while offering a candid assessment of areas that will or won’t find traction in current reform proposals. The important thing, he stressed, is the need for people to get engaged in the debate and share their concerns with Congress.
One of the most compelling moments of the day came from Allison, a “Dreamer” and high school senior who was brought to the U.S. as a child and who now faces the challenge that she won’t be able to go to college. Virginia’s proposed “Dream Act” has been killed in the General Assembly, meaning Allison and other graduating seniors like her have very limited choices. Despite this setback, the group was encouraged that Senator Warner is passionately working for reform on this important issue.
Reston Interfaith is grateful for Senator Warner’s dedication to his Virginia constituents and willingness to spend time receiving input from our community.
Amelie Bailey is Board and Agency Relations Manager for Reston Interfaith.